Summary and Response
In Children Need to Play, Not Compete, Jessica Statsky highlights how competitiveness has robbed children of enjoying sports for the fun of it. She begins by saying that because of the overzealous parents and coaches, children are made to play sports for its competitiveness, rather than for pleasure. Because of the standards imposed on children, sports are neither satisfying nor beneficial to children. She mentions sports such as Peewee Football and Little League Baseball, which, played to adult standards, cause physical and psychological harm to children. She believes that parents go overboard and condemn their children to strict work regimens that rob them of fun, and create a feeling of fear. As children are pushed to compete in the public domain, they become extremely fearful of losing and lose their self-confidence. She quotes Leonard Koppett in Sports Illusion, Sports Reality, as saying that parents and coaches have no regard for their children and that, their only focus is on being the best in the sport. Koppett cites an example by saying that, a twelve-year-old, who, while trying to throw a curve ball, could put abnormal strain on developing arm and shoulder muscles, which could become a lifelong injury (294). It is even more dangerous if it happens to be a contact sport, opinions says Statsky. In substantiating her claim, she writes that Thomas Tutko, a psychology professor at San Jose State University and co-author of the book Winning Is Everything and Ofher American Myths, wrote that he was strongly against children playing tackle football, as “it was not the right stage of development for children to be taught to crash into other kids. Kids under the age of fourteen are not by nature physical. Their main concern is self-preservation.”
It doesn’t surprise me that Jessica Statsky has acknowledged how competitiveness has robbed children of enjoying sports for the fun of it. In Children Need to Play, Not Compete, Jessica Statsky supports her views by quoting a few people who have the credibility to vouch what they say. Sports is considered a profession and taken very seriously by many parents and coaches who don’t spare a thought for their wards. There are many children in the U.S who are sent to special coaching camps to learn professional tennis. At a young age, these kids don’t understand much, and push themselves to the limit to excel in the sport. However, after some time, they begin to feel lonesome and vent their frustration on their bodies. While parents want their children to do well in sports, and are willing to go the mile to see that their objectives are fulfilled, little do they realize the damage they are causing them by keeping them away from the carefree life of being young. There were some exceptional young tennis players in the 1980s and 1990s. Names that come to mind are those of Katy Rinaldi, Andrea Jaeger, and Jennifer Capriati. Kathy Rinaldi was just fourteen when she beat some of her senior, and seeded opponents in the women’s professional tennis circuit in the 1980s. She went on to become a top-10 player in the world at a very young age. Jennifer Capriati shot to fame at the tender age of thirteen, when she became one of the youngest professional tennis players on the women’s circuit, who went on to win some of the greatest tennis titles at a remarkably young age.
Andrea Jaeger became the youngest player ever to be seeded at Wimbledon at the age of fifteen, and she too, like Capriati, won many of the top tennis titles in the women’s professional circuit. So, what did these girls have in common? All three of them became professional tennis players who played tennis around the world for money; all three of them were exceptionally talented and worked hard to become the best in the business; all three of them retired from the sport at a young age. And, the most important point is that, all three of them didn’t have the kind of life, they’re friends had. True, they earned a lot of money, traveled all over the world, had the best of food and clothing, and became famous, which most kids their age would have loved to have. However, there is one thing all three of them would have regretted; the young, carefree and happy life of being a teen. While kids their age were busy screaming and playing with their friends in school, these three were being watched and monitored by the watchful eyes of their coaches who had them live a life of strict regimen. Sadly, just as quickly as they shot to fame, they faded from public view, fading into oblivion for various reasons. It’s quite apt that, as Jessica Statsky acknowledged in Children Need to Play, Not Compete, children should be allowed to enjoy their life, and never be pushed into competition at such a young age. As they grow older, they will be able to judge what they want to be and how they will achieve that. Imagine what it would be like, if a child forced into competition, breaks down or gets hurt that permanently disables him or her for the rest of their life. Who should take the blame, and if adults indulge in blame games, will it bring the child back to its normal self? Children need to play, not compete.