When I first came to Michigan as a freshman and saw that the first theme semester was “Sports and the University“, I thought, “Perfect, I love watching sports”. After attending a few theme semester events, however, I learned that there is way more to sports than amazing catches and nasty spin moves. I learned that sports not only affect us physically, but mentally and socially as well. I had always played sports growing up as a kid, but I never realized what the game was doing to me. It was molding the successful individual I am today, whether I knew it or not.
But after all these success stories, I went to a theme semester event that made me think twice about what sports did to our youth. During “Positive Psychology and Sport: What We Know About Athletes from Research and from Themselves”, I listened to story after story of how sports had caused tailspins in peoples’ lives. For example, Will Heininger, an ex-linebacker at UM was sent into deep depression during his time at school. Kally Fayhee, a UM swimmer, suffered with body image problems because of her swimmers’ body, and had major eating disorders. It struck me that maybe we are taking these things a bit over the edge.
I remembered back to the Dunning reading about “Dynamics of Modern Sport”, and how he elaborated on how the amateur ethos was slowly dwindling away in our society. These athletes may be amateurs, but they are treated much bigger than that. One British athlete at the “Positive Psychology” talk, explained the “Power2Podium” program, which calculates your physical attributes, and tells you which sport you are most likely to medal in in the Olympics. This would then encourage parents to have their children specialize in that sport, in hopes of athletic glory. This is a true stripping of individuality and freedom from the young athlete, one many could say is detrimental to their development. At the theme semester event “Sports and Youth Development”, they discussed the several ways in which childhood sports may affect the brain of a child. It was established that if the child felt pressure from their parents about sports, the child would feel increased pressure in life in general. The way parents treat their kids when it comes to sports may at times become destructive to all involved.