15 Sep Youth Athletes, Are You Becoming More Human or More Robot?
Lock down exposed a lot.
No, not that we clock in at 9 hours of screen time a day.
No, not that us doing work with our family within earshot is like nails on a chalkboard.
No, not that we hate the news more than we did before.
No, not that we’d be better off tossing our television out the window.
No, not that we take a week to complete an assignment, when it could’ve taken an hour.
Darn Tik Tok!
Lock down exposed a lot, a lot more.
While all of these may be true for you, the biggest elephant in the room during all of this has been the exposure to the path we all have been heading down anyway.
You see, I like to call lock down a wake-up call for humans.
For youth athletes.
For the next generation.
Heck, for all generations.
Before we were told to not go to sports practices, not hop on the bus for school, not high five, hug, and see our friends, were we that different pre-COVID?
Were we living? Were we feeling? Were we connecting?
Or were we on an endless conveyor belt of producing and training and working and screen timing, we forgot to take time to be human?
Were we over-consuming we forgot to connect with ourselves and seek approval from within?
Were we becoming transfixed by our screens we weren’t completely present with our friends?
Were we becoming so sedentary we forgot the move our bodies and express ourselves creatively?
Were we becoming more human, or more robot?
I know this all sounds heavy, and like an uncomfortably enlightening conversation on The Joe Rogan Podcast, but as a collective, where have we been heading for the past decade?
As a youth sports community, what path have we been going down?
Are we truly better off?
Or are we disconnecting from the beauty of our sports and ourselves?
We have more social media followers, less fulfillment.
We have more Likes, less self love.
We have more trainers than we can imagine, yet more overuse injuries.
We have the technology and a fancy facility, yet less mental stability and expression of creativity.
We have support staffs, psychologists, resources, and experts, yet more performance anxiety and self doubt.
Are we better off?
Even with more, more, more are we truly making progress?
Of course, none of this is all doom and gloom, nor is it to put blame on “the system.” Over the years, we did this to ourselves whether it was conscious or unconscious, and now we’re paying the price with expensive medical bills for injuries, gut wrenching panic attacks from performance anxiety, and obsessive perfectionism from lack of creativity and expression of self.
It may seem like we are destined to become robots of a sports system that has defined us by a data point, a statistic, or a number on the GPS software, but I’m here to tell you we can choose to crawl out this path of a fully virtual, drone-like world.
Now this isn’t to say we should be anti-science.
We need both evidence-based and experience-based, not one overshadowing the other.
To that end, do young athletes follow science? Or does science follow humans?
Alas, we’re so dynamic in nature, science better keep up.
And too, science can’t measure when a human is so immensely connected to self, to her innate power, creativity, and emotions and feelings.
There’s no measurement for the rush of adrenaline through our veins up to our fingertips when we score the championship goal.
There’s no data point for the electricity that vibrates through the heart when we hug a teammate when winning in double overtime.
There’s no study that will ever demonstrate the excitement jolting through our souls as we counterattack and bolt down the pitch as the crowd goes wild.
There’s not measurement that will ever show the fulfillment and psychological confidence that comes when taking on a defender one on one and beating them with ease.
There’s no data point for the internal fire that ignites during a competitive agility drill.
When we look at youth sports, they’re spontaneous, unpredictable, artwork, masterpieces, rich, vibrant.
They’re far, far from mundane clock-work, and a running commentary of instructions.
Do we want to always give the answers, define with numbers, label kids as data, and tell them how to play, how to react, how to step, turn, cut?
Or do we want to facilitate their thinking process, and encourage self exploration, feeling their bodies in spaces and adapting and leveling up as they go?
Where are we currently in youth sports? And which road do we choose to go down?
Sure, there can be a healthy blend of both, and giving quantitative feedback is good for personal benchmarks (speed times, jump measurements, conditioning times, etc), but the constant measuring, graphing, defining cannot overshadow the very nature of sports: the creative expression of the human.
We are in the human business.
Do we choose to continue to go down a rehearsed, specialized model, tip-toe around load, and rob youth of their childhoods?
Or do we choose to go down a more rich, adventure-driven path that brings them back to the simplicity and creativity of sport?
Here is a video that is worth pondering: Are You Becoming More Human or More Cyborg?