I watched a middle school volleyball match yesterday. I’m telling ya, these girls were utterly amazing. Now I played volleyball for 28 years — I have the injuries as my souvenirs — and I only competed on these middle schoolers’ level much later in life. At their age, I was still learning many of the fundamentals. Sure, part of it was I never great. I was better than average, but nowhere near the top. I’m not going to fool myself there. At their age, I also didn’t have the options or resources to improve myself . There weren’t any clubs that I knew of back in the day, and private lessons were rare, if they existed at all. (Does watching my older sister play count? If so, I think I may owe her some back pay.) And, I didn’t play year round. I played for my school and in the allies of the city — the garbage cans were out . I played until the season was over. After that, I went on to other things, like moping and talking back to my parents….you know, normal preteen and teenaged hobbies.
I’m not begrudging these girls their passions. I am envious of what is available now. It does keep them busy and the fruits of their labor look like they’re paying off. Many of them are so talented, I would not be surprise if Big Ten recruiters were watching the same game I was just waiting to chomp at the bit. Although, I hear that happens more and more at the club level and girls as young as 10 are being looked at by colleges. Can’t imagine the stress of that look-see. And, if the families have the means, well good for them. But it does bring up the question if some sports are turning into a rich person’s pursuit. There will always be an exceptions of course. Stands out despite economic disadvantage will gain people’s interest. No club in the world can teach determination nor give height to a person, but for the most part, money does help the mediocre…which of course is most of us.
When I looked closely enough yesterday, there were other things missing or present — depends how you look at it — at the game yesterday. Among the awe-inspiring spikes, effortless serves, just can’t be blocks, there were knees wrapped in braces, ankles tied up with supports, grabbing of shoulders with cringes on their faces…in other words, there were injuries. We all know of reports on the increased injuries of the young due to sports. Pediatric orthopedic doctors are making a good living off this societal pursuit of athletic perfection at a young age. The injuries are a fallout to all of this. I did also notice a little less competitiveness. I’m wondering if it had to do with thoughts of “well, if I don’t win today, I’ll win at club tomorrow”? I also wonder if they’re not just plain burnout. Sure, they like to play, but the fire may be fading a bit. I bet some of these girls have been playing year round for five years. It has to get old. Concentrating on one or maybe two things in life seems like it would be difficult at 12 or 13. I mean, don’t most young people have a sort of ADD about life? Or at least, shouldn’t they?
Well, just some thoughts as I watched the game yesterday. It was an interesting match….in so many ways.