Extreme Sports – How Much is Too Much

For the 30 million student athletes in America, sports can be an excellent way for high school students to build relationships, stay in shape and learn valuable skills about teamwork. But high school sports aren’t always fun and games. With scholarship hopes, parental pressures and an ultra-competitive atmosphere, some student athletes may begin to crumble under the pressure.

Pressure

How much should ride on throwing a ball in a basket, hitting a home run or running fast?

In many ways, high school sports have evolved into a high stakes game that puts student athletes under a tremendous amount of pressure. It may start in little league with over-eager dads and coaches lightheartedly inspiring kids’ major league dreams, but it doesn’t always end there. Student athletes don’t want to let down their parents, their teammates, their school, or with high profile sports, their town.

These pressures are coming at a time when most high schoolers’ confidence and self-image are in question. Children and teens want to live up to the potential that their parents see in them. They also want to ease the burden of college tuition. Earning an athletic scholarship would fulfill both of those goals.

According to The Sports Scholarship Handbook, only 1 in 50 high school athletes receive athletic scholarships. Consider the pressure to be that one along with those from school work, other activities and social lives; that is a lot for a teenager to handle. The drive to win, to be the very best, can inspire greatness in children and adults alike, but that winner-take-all mentality can also set unrealistic expectations. It is this kind of mindset that can sap the fun out of sports. Rather than create these pressure-filled pastimes, shouldn’t we use high school sports to foster well-rounded young adults?

Physical Dangers

In order to be successful in high school sports these days, students are required to commit to one sport and play on club teams all year.

When athletes play one sport day-in, day-out all year round, they put themselves in danger of damaging joints, tearing muscles, or causing stress fractures due to the constant repetitive movements. Despite these dangers, coaches continue to warn students that they risk their roster spot and any college hopes by playing multiple sports.

A recent study demonstrates the alarming increase in these repetitive stress injuries. The study tracked the number of “Tommy John” surgeries, procedures done on pitchers to repair damaged elbow ligaments, and was completed by the American Sports Medicine Institute, Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center, in Birmingham, Alabama.

“Before 1997, Tommy John surgery was performed on only 12 of 97 patients (12%) who were 18 years or younger,” coauthor and research director E. Lyle Cain, MD said.

“In 2005 alone, 62 of the 188 operations performed were on high-school athletes, a third of the surgical group,” Cain said. “The reality is that this surgery is successful and that’s good. But a disturbing trend of younger kids needing the surgery is troubling.”

Ironically, playing multiple sports can help athletes to be in better physical shape, develop multiple muscle groups, and keep them from burning out on their chosen sport.

Detavius Mason agrees in his article for The Guilford Orthopedic and Sports Medical Center titled “Age of Specialization: One Sport Vs. Multiple Sports.”

“Kobe Bryant, Roger Federer, Tom Brady, Lebron James, Alex Rodriguez,” Mason wrote. “When these names are brought up, a few things come to mind: excellence, transcendent talent, winning, but the thought of them specializing in one sport should not. Kobe & Federer were soccer players, Brady played baseball, Lebron played football and A-Rod played basketball, football and soccer.”

He ends with advice to parents and coaches: “So allow your child to participate in multiple sports … Participating in multiple sports also allows them to see if they are talented in another sport, less stress on the body, overall athleticism increases, gain more friends & social interaction, and there is less pressure to be perfect.”

In extreme examples, some sports can endanger an athlete’s general health. Whether students are trying make weight for wrestling, stay slim for dance or bulk up for football, sports can trigger some dangerous eating and exercise habits.

The Out-Crowd

High school sports can also create an “in crowd” mentality that excludes those who don’t make the cut.

Let’s face it, not all kids are athletic superstars. Does that mean they don’t love the game and want to be a part of the team? Does that mean they should miss out on the social and physical benefits of organized sports? Though some kids stay involved as managers or fans, well-organized recreational options are few and far between.

These exclusions also extend beyond general skill level. With club sports being an unofficial requirement to make many high school teams, underprivileged students are put at a distinct disadvantage because they cannot afford membership fees and travel expenses that club teams require. When try-outs come around, coaches are more likely to favor club players that they’ve seen play for years over unknowns who have only practiced on the playground.

John Cochran, a parent from Newton, Mass., argues that all students should have the chance to play high school sports regardless of skill level.

“Studies have shown that students who participate in high school athletics have higher grade point averages, fewer discipline problems and greater self-esteem,” Cochran wrote in his editorial for Newton’s Wicked Local newspaper.

“By cutting everyone except the very best players, only a small fraction of students will ever benefit from those [government allocated] resources.” he wrote. “If the prevailing philosophy is taken to its logical conclusion, public high schools should provide inferior educational opportunities to students who are not at the very top of their class.”

The Solution

My goal is not to ban high school sports, but to return sports to their original purpose: fun. If we can change the general outlook on these sports – letting kids play multiple sports, refocusing on recreation instead of cutthroat competition, and creating a fair playing field for all would-be athletes – then high schoolers can really go out and play.

Effective Sports Coach

In this day and age of mega salaries for professional athletes in any sports, it is not surprising that many still consider the talented players key to any successful sports team. Owners of professional teams and fans very commonly forget the effective sports coach is the most important person in the team. Instead of spending obscene amounts to lure the best players to the club, owners of sports franchises should invest the most optimum money in the effective sports coach.

He will determine the success or failure of the team. But what exactly does an effective coach possess? How does an effective coach deal with his players? How can the sports coach plan and conduct his campaign such that his players and team ultimate reach their peak performance in sports? These are some of the questions we will explore in a good coach in this article. If you were to study the history of effective coaching, you will not fail to notice that very often these coaches produce very cohesive teams.

Teams with a common goal, and players put the team and others before themselves. There is something magical about a team build on successful team spirit, and all effective sports coaches know this. That is why it is paramount from the on start that the coach builds this strong team spirit and cohesion right from the start. More than anything else, it is a team who knows the true value of team work, team spirit and team cohesion that will produce the most successful results and performances at the end of the day. Sports coaches do not need star players who play for themselves. They need players (not necessarily the most talented) who will die for the team. With these players, the coach can do wonders. Hence, for any aspiring person who wants to be an effective sports coach, build a team first before you train a team.

When team work and team spirit is no longer an issue, the sports coach can next turn his full attention to preparing a solid team for competition. To be successful, thorough preparation for sports competition must be the main aim of a coach when it comes to training the team. Thorough plans must be made for the season, right down to when and where the team breaks for their off-season. No details must be spared to prepare the team for competition. In every training session, the effective sports coach must let everyone know his own personal goals for that session. He must also dictate down to the number of repetitions each player must do for their drills. In effect, the he is reducing practice and competition to a science. As in science, the more certain an input is the more obvious will be the result. So when he decides even what time players must sleep before games, he is not overdoing it. The effective sports coach does his job well by merely being thoroughly prepared on all fronts.

One of these fronts that sports coach must ensure that it is at its optimum is in the field of sports psychology. He must include in his plans, target setting as a group, mental imagery practice, relaxation training, visualization training, mental psyching methods, and constant affirmation training and so on. All these sports psychology training must become part and parcel of a player’s regime that he breathes, eats and sleeps on them. He must ensure that this aspect of training is believed by players. Players who do not believe in this form of approach to sports must be weeded out right from the start. Which explain why the effective sports coach must begin his preparation by building the best team with the most common goals and perspectives in sports? Sports psychology, more than anything now, will determine whether the effective sports coach can produce results.

Knowing and executing the fundamentals of the game is also important. The sports coach must strive to ensure that his players master these basics fast until they become habits to the players. No matter how simple these skills are, players must understand their importance and perform them to their best. He will always have these skills practices included regularly in his training plans. If at any time these fundamentals are forgotten or taken for granted, then he must return to the beginning and tell the players about the very basics of the game, without which, peak performance in sports will not be possible.

Another important thing that sports coaches pay attention to knows his opponents and his team. Only when the effective sports coach understand his opponents and his team, will he be able to come up with the right game strategies to win the game. In this respect, the coach must consider his job to seek out scouting opportunities of his opponents and seek out their strengths and weaknesses. Once that is known, he can than derive the most creative and effective tactics to overcome his opponents and ensure that his team come out on top. The old maxim of “know thy enemy and thyself, and victory is assured!” holds true all the time under these sports situation.

And finally, part of knowing his own team, is management of his own players. Every team will be different. Therefore it is important for the effective sports coach be able to handle his players individually under differing circumstances. The job will no doubt be easier if the team has been first built right at the start. That is why the first factor is so important for the effective sports coach. To be an effective sport coach requires not just a passion for the sport or game. The sports coach must be able to build a team from a bunch of individuals, prepare them thoroughly, instilling sports psychology concepts in the players, work on the fundamentals, study his opponents and his team, and also manage his players effectively. Only when the sports coach masters these few areas will he be successfully in achieving peak performance in sports.

Brief Theology of Sports

A number of years ago I was a speaker at a camp for young people. When the first group game time came, one of the leaders began by telling a parable based on Genesis 1-3. He described the joys of playing games in the Garden of Eden where the emphasis was simply on the joy of play. But one day the serpent entered the garden and tempted the Eden-dwellers with the idea of points. They gave in to the temptation and began keeping score in their games and this led to all kinds of evils – competition, lust for winning, cheating, anger and fights. They lost the simple joy of play.

The leader told this parable to let the young people know that this week at the camp they would be introduced to non-competitive games. There were no points, no winners or losers, just the joy of play. But there was one serious problem – the games were totally and completely boring. Day after day less and less of the young people showed up for the game time so that at the last one there were only a handful of young people there.

Is this an accurate portrayal of a theology of sports? Obviously, I don’t think so. I’d like to present a brief and broad theology of sports. If you don’t like that title you can think of it as, “Why we should watch the Super Bowl!”

History can be summed up in three words: creation, fall, redemption. So when you are looking at the theology of an issue you need to ask: What is its relation to or reflection of creation, of the fall, of redemption? In considering the issue of sports, I have added two further words to expand our consideration – incarnation and salvation (both which are, of course, tied to creation, fall and redemption).

Creation – God could have created everything to be gray and serviceable. Rather, He created a great diversity of color, size, shape, smell, texture, sounds, and tastes. Why did He do this? He did it so that the creation would be a reflection of His person and, in particular, His beauty. It is a masterpiece of function and form. The creation is a work of art.

Art is sometimes thought of as consisting of two types: visual art – like painting, sculpture, architecture, and, performing art – like drama, music, dancing. The Lord included both visual and performing art in the creation. Visual Art: flowers, mountains, trees; Performing Art: oceans and rivers, planetary orbits, clouds. Some things in creation combine the two.

Sports are a reflection of this creative activity of the Lord. They also combine visual art (painted fields/courts, team colors and logos) and performing arts (the actual play). Sports reflect the function and form of creation. There is beauty in a play that is run to perfection, in a well-thrown ball, in a diving catch, in turning a double play. Those things can bring excitement and happiness because they are a reflection of the way the world was created to be. They are a display of art (or artistry, if you prefer).

The Lord also created things in a specific order, not in a haphazard way, and He placed within the creation laws or rules by which nature operates. Sports also have an order to them and have rules by which they operate. Just as there are consequences for rebelling against the created order (such as disregarding gravity), so there are consequences for not following the rules in sports. Sports reflect the nature and principles of the creation. As in nature, this reflection, when done well, honors the Lord and gives the fan joy.

Fall – In the fall, man rebelled by sin and the curse which resulted from that fall touches every part of every thing – there is nothing that escapes. This means that we would expect to see evidence of the fall in sports and, of course, we do. There are sins of attitude as well as sins of action.
The deadliest of these sins is the idolatry of sports – when it holds the highest place in the affection of the heart and in the thinking of the mind. When life is planned around when games are played or when a person’s entire outlook is impacted by whether his team wins or loses, he has crossed the line into an unhealthy and sinful obsession.

There are also other wrong attitudes – when winning becomes the only thing that matters, when a person will do whatever it takes to be successful, when personal glory becomes the end-all, when people become arrogant or angry. These are all sins of the fall. The fall is reflected in sports by actions such as the use of steroids, of fixing games, of corking bats, of bench-emptying brawls, and a host of other things.

Incarnation – We are embodied beings and the incarnation validates that our bodies are more than merely containers for our souls. Even our eternal state will consist of bodies – glorified bodies but bodies nevertheless. The Christian life is not about condemning the body but bringing it into subjection to honor the Lord.

Sports are one of the things that help us to do that. Playing a sport requires discipline and the disciplining of the body for sports can carry over into our spiritual lives. Sports require determination, delayed gratification, a toughening-up of the body. Sports can also teach how to work with a team, how to submit to authority, how to encourage those not as naturally gifted as others, how to hit hard. And they teach patience. Even time on the bench can be sanctifying.

Sports are one way that we honor the truth and reality of the incarnation and glorify God by using our bodies in God-honoring ways.

Salvation – The history of salvation is a drama. A drama, to be effective, depends at the least on knowledge, motion and timing. In the drama of salvation, the Lord had a game-plan, knowledge, before the beginning of time. At the creation this game-plan was put in motion, what we know as the people and events of unfolding history. And it was all done according to God’s timing – Galatians tells us that Christ came in the fullness of time. That drama continues today. It is what C.S. Lewis called the true myth.

Today, actors/actresses in drama need to know their lines (knowledge), they need to know where they are supposed to be in a scene (motion) and they need to know when they are to play their part and say their lines (timing). Great drama also has that sense of being a true myth.

This dramatic notion of knowledge, motion and time is reflected in sports. The knowledge is seen in the plays and strategies that are a part of sports. The motion is seen in the carrying out of those strategies and they are only successful if the timing of everyone involved is correct. Sports portray drama action and also have that mythic aspect to them. It may be that part of sports appeal comes from the fact that they are universal in being part of human life. Some would say that sports transcend entertainment and take on a meaning that is significant and important in the lives of people who enjoy and devote time to sports.

The heart of our salvation is the saving work of Christ – he gave himself for us, body and blood.

Sports are one of the only arenas in life where you can offer your body for the good of others. Many plays in sports – a block, a diving catch, a physically demanding gymnastic routine – are the giving up of the body for the sake of the team. This is a display of the gospel.

Redemption – Redemption is the delight in restoration. When that redemption is accomplished completely at the consummation it becomes glorification – that will be full joy and unhindered delight. The joys and delights of this life are gifts of grace. They are never completely satisfying but they give a taste of what that complete satisfaction will be like.

Sports, for the fans, are one of those gifts that bring joy and delight (also at times disappointment so we learn how to deal with that in a healthy and godly way). They are to be enjoyed in themselves for what they are – a gift of grace. The enjoyment never lasts or is total but it is a taste of that complete satisfaction that causes us to long for more. So while a sport can be enjoyed in itself, it points us to more than just this momentary enjoyment; it reveals the longing for everlasting joy. The sports fan who recognizes this greater purpose is viewing that enjoyment from a biblical perspective. Temporal enjoyment is a gift but it is not an end. When treated as an end, it borders on the idolatrous. We must train our joy to be experienced as part of God’s purpose.

Like all other things in life, we are to take sports captive and make them obedient to Christ. Sports viewing and sports participation can become transforming activities when we view sports as one of the ways that God is extending to us His grace and in recognizing that it is a means to long for the greater joy that only Christ can give.

The Sports Nation

In this day and age, it is very difficult to find a country that does not have a strong emphasis to develop a Sports Nation. Apart from very under-privilege countries, most countries now have some form of initiative or structured programmes that drive them towards a becoming one. But what exact is a Sports Nation? What are the things different countries do in order to aspire to reach that status? Is it national policy that sports must play a prominent role in societies? These are some of the questions we will explore as we uncover the nature of a Sports Nation.

All aspiring Sports Nations have a hidden agenda these days, and that is to develop a healthier nation. Healthy people require less cost to look after as they age and develop. Encouraging an active and healthy lifestyle is an indirect way to tackle the demographic issues of higher life expectancy and rising health care cost. In countries that are considered welfare states, like Australia, Britain, France, and Canada, the health care cost of citizens are mainly bourn by government coffers. This could present a significant burden on the countries resources as health care cost has skyrocketed or will continue to skyrocket with time. Since 1965, health care cost has exploded exponential.

This geometric rise poses a very challenging problem to governments of the world as population growth has not receded. In fact the global population is forecast to breach the 9 billion mark by 2020. How than can governments cope with such pressing need to sustain their peoples? Developing a Sports Nation can be one long-term strategy to deal with this issue. The key is to keep people fit and strong and hopefully keep illnesses and diseases at bay, such that health care costs could be contained.

Another feature of why Sports Nations need to be developed more and more is the quest for greater publicity and positive image creation. In the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, China for the first time emerged the overall winner in terms of Gold Medals garnered during the games. It marks the rise and return of China to the peak ranks of world order. As a Sports Nation, China has created for itself lasting image and publicity that will last a long time. This kind of positive image gained has rubbed off effects on other countries in the world. Because of this Sports Nation image created, people suddenly view many things about China differently. For example, the sports training systems now become the darling for the world over to follow. Its sports equipment and products suddenly become more heavily bought. Chinese sports heroes became role models. In short, the country gets a shot in the arm, and the overall health of the country has improved. Sports Nations has a way to promote and excite people from all over the world, and it is a good thing to have.

Sports Nations do not just get an image boost and allow health care costs to be tackled, they also bring in revenue for the country. As the world continue to move towards a sporting world, nations that are successfully becoming Sports Nations, become the destination of numerous international games, sports conferences, sports exhibitions, training tours and camps, even investment destinations for companies producing sports goods and services. Just think of the building of stadia in South Africa for the World Cup of soccer. How many billions of dollars are invested, and how many billions more will flow in during this kind of events. With the kind of money generated, it is no wonder that countries around the world try their very best to become Sports Nations and in the process eludes the kind of features that only Sports Nations have.

One of these features is the abundance of sports facilities and programmes in a Sports Nation. In established and successful Sports Nations, the lifestyle and infrastructure gives the feel of a truly healthy and active people in them. Stadia are monuments and symbols of progress, parks and running routes are accessible to the masses, sports events for the masses are common, advertising campaigns are washed with sports publicity, families engage in sports whole-hearted and holistically. Government initiatives and support in terms of resource allocation is also very evident in such countries. The whole nation is just breathing the sporting culture. Because of all these present in a Sports Nation, it is not surprising that the standard of living in the country can be exceedingly high as well. The benefits of sports offer people a way of life that is much more desirable. If you look at successful countries, like Australia, New Zealand, Germany, America, and even China, there is a feel of peace and freshness, and this is reflected by the great desire of people wanting to make them their migration and travel destinations.

Sports Nations are desirable destinations and living places for people to flourish. They lead to lower health care cost eventually, increase public image of the country, generate revenue and allow the populace to enjoy high standards of living. These are all very positive motivation for nations to strive towards becoming one. In the long run, it will happen, but getting there might not be as easy as there are many challenges that nations face in becoming Sports Nations.