Coming off of the lacrosse convention, surrounded by a network of coaches from the entire country and even some from around the world brought me into a series of conversations that had me thinking long and hard about the long term effect of the elite quest syndrome. You know, that overwhelming pressure to succeed at sports at the cost of just about everything else.
One of those conversations revolved around a kid who, as a senior, had a career ending injury. After training mostly year round since being in junior high school, giving up most weekends, spending just about every family vacation at tournaments or camps and having lacrosse be the center of the families’ life, suddenly there was nothing. A big gaping hole, a loss of identity, right before this player was about to take over the world with that big fancy scholarship.
In this player’s quest for opportunity through sport, the singular focus on one activity at high intensity had actually created limits. This kid has almost no other interests, hasn’t tried many other things, and no longer even has any interest in going to college. With playing at the highest level as the ultimate goal, there was a total loss and a childhood gone; irretrievable.
There comes a time when we have to ask, do we own our sports experience, or does it own us?
There’s a line, like in any part of life, where there is not enough to be successful and grow, and on the other side, too much to provide benefit for most people except the elite of the elite. And then there’s just right. We haven’t figured out the “just right” yet. We keep erring on the side of too much, afraid of losing. Afraid of losing what? Why not err on the side of less, with a healthy fear of losing childhood, balance, joint health, opportunities in other fields?
The choice of programs to play in just keep coming. The “opportunities” are growing at an exponential rate. But at what point do the opportunities become self-limiting as other interests and quality-time learning and exploring their young life start to be blotted out by the quest for the spotlight? At what point do we see that the real opportunity we are talking about is going directly to the program who is drawing in the profit? Has anyone noticed that the ones shouting that players must get scholarships, play on the best teams, and play all year are directly benefiting from this mass hysteria?
But…. “My coach said I needed to train all these opportunities.” As my mother always said, “if your (insert peer pressure) told you to jump off the Brooklyn bridge would you do it?”
Take a lesson from that lax player who lost it all with a simple wrong turn of the knee. Love your sport, grow, thrive in it. Take advantages of some opportunities that come your way. But beware of the pile. That enormous pile of opportunities that can crush your other interests and regretfully become, limitations.