In The Dynamics of Modern Sport: Notes on Achievement-Striving and the Social Significance of Sports, Dunning disuses the increasing competitiveness of sports and the general trend towards professionalism in the game. While Dunning gives many examples, he doesn’t talk much about how this increasing competitiveness happens at such a young age. Youth sports have completely changed and this is what I will discuss in my blog. It used to be the case that athletes that had serious professional potential began to be scouted in there early high school years. Those who were serious about their sport would, if they could, contact coaches, attend training camps, and go to as many invitationals as possible. Now we see these same events happening much earlier one. Kids who show potential as young as ten years old are sent to these same training camps and are talking to coaches as early as middle school.
For example most major D1 football programs will offer scholarships to players in their junior year of high school, however, two years ago LSU offered a scholarship to a player in seventh grade. Now some people will think, “good for those players good enough to gain this much recognition this early on”. However, as Dunning says, this increase in competitiveness and professionalism is not necessarily good for the game. The constant pressure to better ones self, due to exterior pressures can lead to a resentment of the game an athlete once loved.
Not only can it be bad for the athlete’s opinions of a sport, it can also be incredibly detrimental to their health. Players are pushed to work out, especially lifting weights, far earlier than their bodies are ready for it. Unfortunately to compete with other athletes now a days, it is impossible to let your body develop before entering into the training programs that should only be done much later in an athlete’s career. While I understand that it is beneficial to young athletes to begin a more advance training regimen that the typical youth leagues I would argue that the intensity of training needs to decrease and it needs to wait until later to begin this training. Now this is of course impossible to regulate, or is it? This gets into Mill’s theory on the limits of the authority on society as stated in, On Liberty. Is it the right of the authority, either the government or whatever body governs the given sport, to regulate the training of young athletes? One could argue that it is the kid, or their parents’ choice and because it will hurt nobody but them, it cannot be regulated. However, others could argue that the parents are selfish and even negligent in letting their kids enter into these extreme training conditions. While this debate may never come to a clear decisions, I am of the opinion that for the protection of the game and these kids, it is not only the right but the responsibility of these governing bodies to regulate premature training programs.