Tuesday, June 1, 2010

then and now by Vern Gambetta

I have seen and heard much discussion regarding how different kids are today. I hear that they are lazy, not fit, disrespectful, they just won't do the things that kids did forty or fifty years ago. Since I am still involved in day to day coaching of high school athletes I also have given this issue much thought. I guess the perspective of coaching 41 years at all levels of competition gives me some insights that others who started later may not have. I also have been a classroom teacher, history and geography, a teacher of physical education and a coach of multiple sports. A few preparatory points are necesaary1) The older you get the easier it is to remember the good of the good old days and forget the bad. 2) We live in an entirely different world today than 41 years ago. Those points being made please indulge me as I attempt to explain what I see in kids today.

Lets look at then first:

Students rode bikes or walked to school

Kids had mandatory daily physical education

Most kids started playing three sports in elementary or middle school and then narrowed it down to two by high school

Family structure was still there

You seldom saw a latchkey kid

Less litigation

No high fructose corn syrup

No professionalization of youth and high school sports

Sports were centered in the schools and recreation departments

Parents were interested, but not directly involved

There were virtually no competitive opportunities for girls

Coaches were usually trained teachers, often physical education teachers

Coaches were the experts, because in many cases they were

Coaches did not specialize they coached multiple sports

A sporting event on TV was special because there was not many of them

No national high school or youth championships

You wore Converse or Keds, black or white was the choice of colors

There were strict transfer rules – no changing schools in midyear because you did not like the coach or you were not starting

Let look at now:

Students ride to school

No mandatory physical education and no recess

Kids specialize in one sport from an early age

Sports are centered outside the schools

Coaches are not trained as educators; in essence anyone can be a coach

Parents are involved; they run and have ownership of school and club programs because of fundraising

National championships in youth sports and high school sports

Sports are on television 24/7

Our diet is worse than most third world nations

Kids spend hours a day on computers and cell phones

The only time many kids play is at organized practice

We have more knowledge in sports medicine and sport science

We have significantly better facilities

Unlimited competitive opportunities for boys and girls

If you are not a starter or a star you either quit or transfer

So what the conclusion? First of all you cannot separate sport from society. I have always felt sport is a reflection and in some ways a magnification of what you see in society, both good and bad. We are a nation of consumers, instant gratification and fast money. So a logical step as a reflection of society is to use kids to make money and build reputations. The shoe and apparel companies really do not care about kids they are concerned with the bottom line. In your face ads and smack talking sport stars sell shoes. With sports on 24/7 the kids imitate their role models good and bad. We live in a throwaway world, national champion at 13, nobody at 16. Who cares? Essentially we - adults, parents, coaches and administrators have created a monster. What we see in today’s kids is the result of an over indulgent culture. We have lowered the bar, eliminated behavioral expectations and compromised sound educational principles to chase a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that is not here.

So is it all l that bleak, all gloom and doom? No way! We need to stop and take a long look at what we as parents, coaches, administrators, in short the adult authority figures need to do. We need to raise the bar, set a higher level of expectation for the kids in areas that matter. I see the kids that I work with day to day achieve at a very high standard, just like the kids I coached 40 years ago. I have the same standards and they know what they are and reach up to those standards. Lets stop blaming the kids and look at ourselves in the context of society. These kids are crying out for teaching, structure, and firm fair discipline, they want the special experience that real coaching can provide. Lets not cop out and blame the kids, we all need to look in the mirror and raise our standards.

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