Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Youth Sports, Communism and Crazy Parents

Is there a difference between crazy youth sports parents in America and state sponsored athletic programs in say China, Russia or former eastern block countries?

I was having dinner with a guy from Romania and a women from Canada. We were talking about youth sports. The guy from Romania is somewhat quiet so I asked him many questions about Romania. I remembered when Nadia Comaneci captured the hearts of people worldwide in 1976. I asked him if Nadia Comaneci was still a legend there. He said yes. He talked about national sports programs where kids are shipped off to train night and day to make the Olympics.

I always had the impression that the state selected the top athletes and shipped them off to train. He explained that the state did not take the kids, the parents sent them off in hopes of bettering the family situation. He said in the US there are probably opportunities to train at top facilities close to your neighborhood. In some countries, access to top training is very limited, so parents need to send their kids away if the kid is going to have any chance of reaching the top levels of sports. I said, "That seems like a sad situation. The kids lose their youth and perhaps weaken the family bond. And for what? We only see the ones who make it big. There are probably hundreds of failures for each kid who made a name for themselves. That is a big risk. It's sad."

Crazy Youth Sports Parents Series

The women from Canada who was listening said something very interesting. She said, "Is it really different in the US?" Perhaps kids are not handed over to a state controlled, completely regimented training program where they tell you what to eat, when to sleep, when to study etc. In the US, crazy moms do the work of the state."

The Main Point

I grew up thinking that communist states were one big prison where the government controlled every aspect of the lives of its people. I assumed that the state patrolled the countryside looking for promising athletes and took them from their parents so that they could develop them into superior athletes in hopes that they would bring glory to the state. I often wondered if they killed, tortured or imprisoned the ones that did not bring glory to the state. Athletic success on the world stage demonstrated that communism was good and failure would bring communism into question. I am learning that it was not the state but the parents who controlled the situation in hopes that their kids would bring glory to their families and that is not very different from the situation of youth sports in the US.

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