Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘horse’

The Expense of Early Sport Specialization

My role in the horse world to date has been little more than loyal supporter. This includes my posts as head cheerleader, financier, and klutzy outsider comic relief (for example, I always seem to be over- or under-dressed). My ROI is measured in the smiles on my girls’ faces over the years. They have seemed to truly enjoy the process, the journey, sometimes with little regard to the outcome or the score.

Everything about the horse world is expensive. Really expensive, actually. There are lots of expensive sports out there to be sure. Golf, tennis, and hockey come quickly to mind. All have in common expensive equipment, coaching, and venues, even at the lowest levels of participation. Most other sports only become expensive when you add in the effects of higher level competition with the new burdens of professional coaching and travel. Think AAU anything, gymnastics or swimming.

One thing that sets the horse world apart is the Sugar Daddy or Sugar Momma, a usually over-monied individual whose sole role is to write checks. Big checks. Lots and lots of checks. Most whom I’ve met don’t really seem to enjoy hanging around horses, actually. Kinda like someone who owns a big boat but gets seasick in the bathtub. The other essential difference between a Sugar Daddy/Momma and a “Little League Parent” is that the Sugar Daddy/Momma doesn’t care a lick about the outcome of the event.

In a funny, very roundabout way this makes me think about youth sports, high school sports, and the behavior of parents in that world. Unlike the Sugar Daddy/Momma the youth sports parent is highly invested in outcomes, not only game by game but also in terms of reaching the next level. As in that level to which the ridiculously large percentage of participants never get. You probably think this is about going pro, about making a living at your sport. Nope. That number is so tiny and has been parsed so many times and so many ways that it’s not worth spending the electrons thinking about how few college athletes or minor leaguers make it to The Show. I’m not even talking about getting a scholarship to play a D1 sport.

What I’m thinking about is some fascinating facts about how few high school athletes go on to play a sport at any level in college.

Seriously, the numbers are comically low. Cut and past this for a look: http://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/research/estimated-probability-competing-college-athletics. For boys, only lacrosse and hockey are above 10%. More boys go on to swim in college (7.1%) than play football (6.8%). The statistics are similar for girls led by Ice hockey (24%), lacrosse (12.9%), and field hockey (10.1%); all other sports are in the low to mid-single digits. I don’t know about you, but with all of the teams sponsored by Division 3 colleges out there, along with the dearth of multi-sport athletes taking up more than one slot, these figures are really shockingly low.

How, then, can we justify the expense of early sport specialization, both in real financial terms, and in terms of the epidemic of injuries suffered through over-use and under-preparation?

On my most recent foray into the horse world I met a  youngster who plays on a volleyball team that uses CrossFit to enhance their fitness.  She no longer does her first-love sport, tumbling, because of a repetitive use stress fracture in her back suffered before she started to play other sports. All tumbling all the time wrecked her. How many young arms must we scar with a Tommy John “autograph” prior to obtaining a driver’s license before we suggest adding in a little winter reprieve from pitching? Isn’t it just a bit disheartening to think that the ACL tear rate in young female soccer players is higher than the overall NCAA participation rate for girls who played that sport in high school? Mind you, these are TOTAL participation rates, not the percentages of kids who got a scholarship to play D1. The list goes on and on.

Says here that the kids would be far better off playing more sports with their buddies in their hometown schools, both physically and mentally, than they are now joining elite travel programs and chasing after such a small number of slots at the next level. Probably have a better relationship with Mom and Dad, too. For sure Mom and Dad are likely to be better behaved. Throw in a little bit of fitness training that emphasizes proper mechanics in functional movements and maybe we can start a trend.

No Sugar Daddies or Mommas necessary, either.

Sunday musings 4/10/16

Sunday musings…

1) Fervidity. Heated or vehement in spirit. How you might describe the way CrossFitters all talk about CrossFit.

2) Eagle. There is a nesting pair of bald eagles a couple of miles from my house. The nest is in a tree that stands in the back of the playground of an elementary school. Truth. How cool is that? There are two chicks and one egg left to hatch. How do I know this? Again, too cool for school: there is a webcam above the nest in the tree and a live feed of the nest! ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZnb3jQ2YZo ).

It was nothing short of awe-inspiring yesterday watching a snow and ice-covered mother eagle sit on her chicks while the father searched the frozen (22 degrees in CLE) landscape for food. Symbolic, indeed.

3) Nutrition. Once upon a time my son Randy, John Brown and I had breakfast with two other CrossFitters on the morning of a cert. Randy, John and I were all Zoners at the time, our companions Paleo. What we three thought was a conversation about the science of nutrition soon turned out to actually be something more akin to a religious discussion, so fervent were our companions about their belief in the rightness of their chosen strategy. Like so many things these days, beliefs so tightly held and so wrapped up in a kind of emotional embrace makes it very difficult to have any kind of meaningful, rational conversation in which actionable ideas might be exchanged.

If it’s so hard to do this among very well-read, inquisitive CrossFit adherents, imagine the carnage that comes when people without this degree of self-determination blindly follow guidelines that are either outdated or just flat-out wrong. While doing some research on cardiac risk factors I stumbled upon dietary questions in several formulas, some from stalwarts such as the Mayo Clinic and the American Heart Association. A blanket condemnation of saturated fats continues to be propagated by these general consumption publications. The masses are still led by sheep.

The lesson for us, of course, is to continue on our quest not only for the macro-information (non-trans fat is good, processed is bad), but also the individualized micro-information that applies in a very specific way to each of us individually. There is science aplenty out there, ripe for the picking. So much of it, that there is most likely more than one way for each of us to skin our particular cat. 5+4=9, but so do 6+3, 7+2, and 8+1. For that matter, go ahead…be crazy…3+3+3=9 too! Your solution can be as simple or as complex as you can or wish to make it.

Just make sure you are making your nutrition decisions based on the individual application of science.

4) Reaper. Death is stalking the White family. This makes us no different from your family; death comes for us all. Rare among us is the one who knows when the knock will come. Yet come it will. Today it came for a little girl who rode horses with my wife Beth, taken at 12, alone in the gloaming, an unseen calamity leaving behind, well, everything and everyone. In this there is nothing special about White family. It is simply our time, our turn for Death to stalk our circle. Death takes us all, and we have very little choice about when it does.

Life, though, is a very different thing entirely. Life, you see, can be taken by the reins and ridden for all its worth. We need not sit back and let life come to us like a horse at the far end of the field. It may, come for us that is, but it just as well may not. Like that horse, though, we can go right over and get it, hop on, and ride like hell.

That’s the beauty of life. Of living. Being alive is a full-contact participatory sport. Every day you get to wake up is just chockablock filled with literally herds of horses just there for the riding. Some days you’re ready for literally anything and it’s off after that fire-breathing stallion and a gallop for the ages. Others, it’s all you can do to pull yourself into the creaky old saddle of a ancient herdy-gerdy pony barely able to put one foot ahead of the other.

No matter. You’re alive. You woke up again and you looked into that pasture at all of those horses, chose one, and started to ride.

Death may indeed be stalking us, stalking you and me, but today is not our day. Uh uh, not today. Today we are alive. We are surrounded by our people, here and everywhere. Our circle is full. Today you have your people, and your people have you. This is not a day to be “not dying”, this is a day to be living. Choose a horse. Take the reins.

For today, we ride.

I’ll see you next week…

–bingo