The Sports Wound

Perhaps we cloud this topic with euphemisms--but many a boy or growing young man who is poor at sports faces hurdles of bias, loneliness, and rejection. Despite many ways of compensating (intellectual, musical, artistic), poor athletic coordination keeps many boys and young men alienated from their peers, watching athletic contests from the stands or through a window, wishing to be “one of the guys.” To be fair to both sexes, I don’t know if there is such a thing as a “sports wound” in girls and young women; perhaps readers can offer illumination, especially in view of the growing number of female athletes in competitive sports at all levels.

Platitudes like “everyone has a special gift” or “just wait till you get out of high school” don’t heal the sports wound and often keep it from coming up as a topic of conversation. Sports are crucially important in our society. Witness the amount of money spent on Division I NCCA athletic programs in colleges and universities, the amount of ink and pixels devoted to sports results daily, and even a reminder from the New Testament when Saint Paul with uncharacteristic pride says that he has given his all and “run the race.” When President Obama said something about Special Olympics, he verbalized an unsaid feeling of many persons, and efforts to take back or rephrase what he said just don’t heal the hurts this comment caused in many hearts.

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Perhaps recognizing the sports wound in boys, and examining the lives of girls and young women for something similar, is part of the Christian mission to help the poor. As Mother Teresa noted many times, there are different kinds of poverty (the poor, she said, are often “poor in gratitude”) and so our efforts toward justice need not be directed solely at economic injustices and poverty. Boys who are poor at sports will also find less opportunities for dating and romantic relationships, again a sad truth that is often minimized by offering a few examples where this isn’t true. Equal opportunity does not exist in this important area of life, and it will never be legislated.

Here is the letter from one of my readers, quoted here with permission. I’d like to emphasize that the point of this article today is to understand the phenomenology of the sports wound and not connect this to acrimonious discussions on sexual orientation. Instead, let us listen carefully to someone who has experienced this problem firsthand:

It seems more than a few people are ignorant of this subject. When I grew up I was a typical boy, but I had no interest in sports. I did not like to play with dolls or engage in other “girlish” behavior. Some people, whom I would consider to be bigots, consider physical weakness in boys to be effeminate. And I was ashamed of being physically weak as far back as I can remember. This shame continued through my adolescence through adulthood.

There was bullying. When I was around the age of 5, I was badly beaten by a group of boys, all of whom were physically bigger than me. Around six, there was a creep who hit me on the head with a pipe, leaving a permanent scar. The sports-centered physical education of the “baby boom” generation forced many who were poor in sports or even physically handicapped to take sports anyway.

One friend of mine remembers how the athletes at high school were given preferential treatment and were allowed to torment other students. Because of their social status, they were not held accountable for their conduct off the playing field. My friend once told me that he once saw another kid being beaten by an athlete at his school. A teacher came by and all that was said was "Don’t do that again." What really sickens me about this sort of bullying is that the athletic classmates had to have known that my friends were physically handicapped through no fault of their own. But were they shown any compassion? Were they given a pass? No, they weren’t, and whenever I hear people say that sports build character I feel like throwing up.

If one does a website search on ‘jock bullies’ or some variation thereof, page after page of links will be displayed. As I read posts such as these, I get angry when I think of all the people who defend bullying in the schools with a ‘blame the victim’ mentality as being just part of life and not a big deal? Again, isn’t it interesting that the bullying of nonathletic kids, instead of being discussed in the sports media or even at a sports psychology website, has to be discussed at a politically liberal website? Pathetic!

These observations shout with the ring of authenticity. Can readers assure me this is not a problem anymore? Even more important, can someone comment on whether or not this occurs in our Catholic elementary schools, high schools, colleges, and universities? I write not of theoretical discussions--rather, I ask us to examine if there are young persons, even in the periphery of our lives, who might be helped by a conscientious review of the continuing presence of the sports wound in our society, our culture, and even our Church.

William Van Ornum

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we vnornm
8 years ago
Okay, JR Cosgrove, good points...hope this clarifies better what I mean and may not be coming across.

(1) and (2), in my opinion, are both true statements.


(1) For most young men, sports can play an important role in physical and emotional development. In schools ranging from the inner city to prep school to the service academies, sports play a central role. Kids in sports stay out of (criminal) courts. Sports can hone the competitive edge to be the best, important for advancement in fields like science and math and engineering and many others. Sports are fun for most! Sports build comaraderie and lifelong friendships.  Our country needs more of a competitive edge to keep up with the rest of the world.

(2) Among a certaiin number of young men (we don't know how many), the inability to play sports causes embarassment and even other problms. In some/many (but not all) situations there can be bulllying by certain of the better athletes.

from this does it follow that

A. Sports are bad for causing emotional pain to some. We should consider getting rid of all sports. If even one person out of 100 is offended by sports, then there shouldn't be any sports. We should consider letting the worst hitter on the team bat clean-up. The Special Olympic model should be used for everyone. No one should ever have hurt feelings.

Am I saying that (A) follows logically from (1) and (2)?

NO! NO! NO!

Am trying to say this:

(B) follows logically from (1)and (2)

B. For some young men the lack of physical coordination and/or interest causes them to be or feel rejected. In these situations, the young person can be guided to develop other interests, obtain coaching to improve to a more competitive level, or or develop a good attitude tht doesn't lead to feelings of being rejected. Perhaps adults need to be more aware of bullying that can occur and step in strategically when this might be helpful. Right now we are learning of a greater occurence of brain-injury causing concussions that before in football and soccer and this may require some re-thinking on these sports. It still remains true that for most young men, sports can play an important role in physical and emotional development. In schools ranging from the inner city to prep school to the service academies, sports play a central role. Kids in sports stay out of (criminal) courts. Sports can hone the competitive edge to be the best, important for advancement in fields like science and math and engineering and many others. Sports are fun for most! Sports build comaraderie and lifelong friendships. Our country needs more of a competitive edge to keep up with much ofnthe rest of the world.

JR Cosgrove, I suspect that in my work as a clinical psychologist I have worked with those persons for whom sports is not fulfilling or causes anxieities. Thus my perspective may be different from yours and I may be much, much more aware of this. Isn't this the purpose of having clinical psychologists? I wouldn't call a psychologist if my house is burning down, and I would be happy to know that the firefighters had all beem successful at contact sports. I, also, enjoy watching hockey games. Ted Williams, Ron Santo, and Hank Aaron are three of my sports heroes.

At USMA West Point there is the Performance Enhancement Center run by Sports Psychologist Nate Zinnser. This center helps cadets choose an area where they desire to boost their performance-and this can be academic or physical-and they learn strategies to do this. Dr. Zinnser has a private practice. Both star athletes and those "building theirm confidence" have benefitted greatly from the Center and Dr. Zinnser. Perhaps this is the model that would be most helpful to apply to this issue. I highly reccmmend this internship to my college students, and have refered young people to Dr. Zinnser.

Maybe I should consider doing a blog on this Center and Dr. Zinnser?

Who do you want to win the pennant? Heard of any odds yet on the Super Bowl. (oops, gambling, please see last week's blog)



amdg, bill
Bill Caudill
8 years ago
Sour grapes, my rear!  Baloney!  How many times do I have to tell you?  I NEVER HAD ANY INTEREST IN PARTICIPATING IN ANY SPORT.   THEY WERE FORCED UPON ME IN MANDATORY SPORTS-CENTERED P.E., AS THEY WERE UPON OTHER NONATHLETIC BOYS WHO HAD NO INTEREST IN THEM.  If sports-centered P.E. had been OPTIONAL from the beginning instead of mandatory, we wouldn't be having this argument now.  By the way, I happen to have several close friends who played football in high school.  Incidentally, isn't it interesting that (aside from a single online ESPN report after Columbine dealing with tensions on high-school campuses between athletes and nonathletes) the sort of bullying in sports that I've alluded to has never been reported by the sports media?  I wonder why.
PJ Johnston
8 years ago
Every young man should be able to defend himself physically, and PE's role is to help him learn to do that, among mastering other basic physical tasks?  If he follows the teachings of Jesus, he won't defend himself physically - and if we do our responsibility as citizens, he won't need to.  Most of the readers of this thread aren't coyboys on the frontier, but Christians living in an (ostensibly) civilized society.  No one should be forced to prove "manliness" or social responsibility through mastering techniques of violence.

PS:  I didn't notice at first that this conversation was geared primarily towards guys.  (I'm not a guy, but obviously, there is sometimes applicability to women as well).
Bill Caudill
8 years ago
Uh, J.R., my post above was directed to Pete, not you.  I probably have less quarrel with you.

Pete, I haven't believed in the "dumb jock" stereotype for decades.  Besides, since they are automatically elevated to the top of the social hierarchy of the clique-ridden high schools of this country (as groups, not as individuals), school athletes are not such an oppressed group, I'd say.  I must modify that last statement to acknowledge the reality that some school sports are more equal than others.  I once read a post written by a middle-aged man who, if I remember correctly, had been on his school's swimming team.  He said one day that two of the football players walked up to him and told him that only football players could wear sports jackets, not swimmers. 

And I don't hear you condemn the negative stereotype that nonathletic boys are continually subjected to as supposedly being sissies with homosexual tendencies.  I'd rather be stereotyped as dumb instead of as a "fag."  When I was in the 8th grade, my parents sent me to a psychologist since I was being bullied at school and my grades had fallen.  Unfortunately, the psychologist was incompetent.  He sent me to a dojo to take judo lessons from an instructor who was a white guy who had played football at a university.  What the psychologist should have done is send me to a gym to work with a personal trainer on a bodybuilding program, which is what I'm doing now.  When I was a boy, I was ashamed of being physically weak, NOT because I wasn't good at any sport.  I never should have taken the judo lessons; my heart was never in it.  I was there only because my psychologist sent me there.  I always felt like an outsider in his judo class.  (I later found out why.)  When he promoted me to brown belt, I felt that he was patronizing me, since I did not feel that I was qualified to be promoted.  By the early spring of my junior year in high school, I decided that I had had enough of this charade and quit.  Eight years later I visited him at his home.  Without any solicitation from me, he made some rather interessting comments that shed a great deal of light.  He said, "Darin, I saved you from homosexuality."  Say what?  I thought you couldn't save someone from something he didn't want to do, unless it was about to be forced upon him against his will.  I would have told him to go soak his head after making such an outrageous insult, but I didn't dare because he was a violent man.  Don't you see?  When he first saw me, I was a shy, physically weak boy who liked to read H.G. Wells and books about wildlife.  So, naturally, I had to be gay, right?  He then went on to say that he considered only athletes and perhaps men in certain blue-collar vocations to be "real men" while at the same time he was obsessed (actually jealous, I'm convinced) with my decidedly nonathletic father for being a great success in the field of architecture.  So, who's stereotyping?
we vnornm
8 years ago
Pete,

Way to go! I'm sure there are lots of stories like that.

Such as my father, Babe Ruth, and Lou Gehrig-a meeting that lasted a lifetime. See earlier blog with photo.

Thanks for sending the inspiring story.

bill

 
J STANGLE
8 years ago
Okay, how about this. My mother was the athletic one in the family. My father was a physically weak wounded WWII veteran. My mother was a child prodigy - played a saxaphone in a jazz band at 14, entered college at 14, graduated with a degree in physical education at Cortland, and was an officer in the Women's Air Corps.
So, while my mother coached (how embarassing) the softball team, I sat on the bench. Maybe once I got to play right field for part of an inning. I couldn't catch. Later, I was forced to join the football team and, "suit up".In the first game I was handed the ball, piled upon, and and became aware of the stupidity of the whole thing and there-upon I absolutely refused to put on a helmet again. I tried soccer and got knocked out.
Later my mother coached at a university. 1960's. By then athletics included archery, golf, swimming, danceing, ping pong, tennis, exercise and more. She coached all of them. The only sport I tried was to try out for the tennis team, but my comparative anatomy or organic chem lab interferred with practice so I quit the tennis. Of course my racquet was her racquet. My golf clubs were her golf clubs! And, I had to sneak on to the course to play. Boxing - lasted half of one round. Basketball - couldn't dribble or hit the basket.
I never was serious about any sport, but I knew the basics of many of them. I have spent half my life criticizing football as a, "sport". Maybe, "flag", football, yes, but not the gladiator style stuff. In fact it is probably criminal to encourge this activity among the youth. On the other hand, "sports" in general have something to offer to everyone, and I mean everyone. I enjoyed playing marbles and jacks. Remember the jacks girls used to play? Also hopscotch and jump rope. Then there was croquet - loved it. I suspect every kid loves some sport - the trouble being it may not be the one the adults favor. Or become psychopaths over.
Sports are not the problem, but a prudent and reasonable view of them is. I think it is important to let kids try different things, not force them but give them some opportunity. And, winning isn't everything. In fact it isn't anything. The joy of playing must be there and be emphasized. What I mainly recall about my mother coaching others is her encouraging them to try and her showing them the how so they could try.
Bill Caudill
8 years ago
I need to make yet another comment for the sake of clarification, and I must emphasize this:  Nowhere in this blog - I repeat, NOWHERE - did I ever say that sports as an extracurricular activity should be taken out of schools.  That is a position that I've never even considered.  That isn't even an issue, anyway.  I'm just saying that neither I nor any other guy has to "prove his manhood" through sports.  If playing sports makes a kid feel better about himself, then I say more power to him.  But I will not respect him if he assumes a contemptuous attitude of unjustified superiority towards those who don't happen to share his enthusiasm for sports.
Bill Caudill
8 years ago
I apologize for name-calling by using the words "pathetic jerks."  I was angry when I wrote those words.  I had no intention of insulting anyone.
Peter Lakeonovich
8 years ago
Bill,

An interesting article, but I have difficulty differentiating between the so-called "sports wound" and rejection or reality causing disappointed expectations in general.  If you don't got it, you don't got it.

How's the sports wound any different from the "honor roll wound"?

Or the from the "ugly wound"?

Or the "fat wound"?

Or the "different wound"?

Or the "dumb jock wound"?

Or the "fill in the blank wound"?

Finally, all these experiences are necessarily unique to the particular individual and anecdotal.  Thus, to say that it is "a sad truth that is often minimized by offering a few examples where this isn’t true," is simply to acknowledge reality.  But the reality is that there are just as many examples where this isn't true.
J STANGLE
8 years ago
That kid sounds like me! Most of the time growing up I lived in a certain amount of fear that I figured the "bullies" and "Jocks" (the two shouldn't be confused, by the way) didn't have.
I also learned some good lessons. Such as, at age 7, to be wary of evil alliances and conspiracies. Thus, when I agreed with Ken that we would beat up Jimmy and then according to plan I jumped on Jimmy first, I learned that I had goofed. This was all part of Ken and Jimmy's plan to beat me up - which they did.
I'm not sure why the author of this article had to warn,"I’d like to emphasize that the point of this article today is to understand the phenomenology of the sports wound and not connect this to acrimonious discussions on sexual orientation."  Who was thinking of sexual orientation?
 
we vnornm
8 years ago
Pete,

You are right, it is an N=1, an individual writing to me. But in 25 years as a clinical psychologist, in and out of schools and youth programs, I've seen it alot. As a father bringing two boys back and forth between a slew of athletic activities over 20+ years, I've found it present. Who knows, there might even be two persons for whom this is true-perhaps even me, before I developed my stunning second serve in tennis, Wiilie Mays catch, and 90 foot fly cast!

I think each of the other "wounds" you mention is worthy of more exploration. I suspect the cosmetic and plastic surgery industry is somehere between the country's education and defense budget,(a bit of hyperbole), but lack of attractiveness is a cross to bear in our society, despite "inner beauty."

i'm glad there's many examples where this isn't true, and hope that this number increases.

amdg, bill
we vnornm
8 years ago
John,

Hope Jimmy and Ken had metanoias before the class reunions.

Glad you pointed out the distinction between jocks, bullies, and jock bullies.

I'm not linking sports wounds to any other aspect of growing up here, and don't think it is appropriate to speculate here, as some may be wont to do. Since I'm new here, I reviewed a few years of articles and blogs here and the responses, and noticed more than several divisive topics that I believe for whatever reason cause too much acrimony. I hope readers will offer further information about a specific example (as both you and Pete have), suggest other readings or web sites, apply what is being written about to our faith, or suggest construtive applications, extensions, and responses. thanks, bill

Thanks for writing. amdg, bill
Shayne LaBudda
8 years ago
Beyond being a pleasant diversion, athletics are one of the few activities providing mind-body harmony.  Joseph Campbell made excellent comment on this.  Parents, athletic directors, teachers and anyone working with young people do them a great service by encouraging and facilitating participation, so they get a glimpse of the beauty of such physical use of our bodies.  It need not be and should not be simply for the thrill of winning, but the beauty, even inelegant beauty of doing.  Of course not all participants have equal abilities, and those with less feel genuine hurt when excluded innocently or agrressively.  But in my own experience I have witnessed kids whose self-satisfaction at simply having participated, despite being the slowest or least capable, overcomes the effect of others with a limited view of the world. 

Shayne Labudda
we vnornm
8 years ago

I love your phrase "the inelegant beauty of doing" and hope it is applied to many other endeavors. It's great when teachers, prents, and coaches know how to create an atmosphere that can take into account natural sports competitivenss and find a balance so everyone can feel the joy of participation. It must be incredibly uplifting to see some of the kids who aren't "stars" feel joy just for being part of the game.

One of my sons has Down syndrome and I haver attended many Special Olympics events and there is true joy in the acceptance and achievement these young persons discover in these activities. It is a great agency to volunteer for.

thanks for writing, bill
we vnornm
8 years ago
David,

The healing for the sports wound is to become involved in other activities and to move away from thinking abut the sports wound. I share your sense that there are more than a few "orgiastic pity parties" going on out there, but it's not my intent to get everyone feeling pity for those with "a sports wound" or for the kids with "sports wounds" to suddenly proclaim their victimhood, get a spokesperson, raise money, go on Oprah, demand special scholarships to Nortre Dame and Georgetown, create high school clubs,etc. etc.

I personally don't think enough adults are aware of this. If they are, they can direct the kids to activities that will build confidence. Or maybe I'm too sensitive and oughta just let the chips fall where they may? Could be.

I think the Boy Scouts do a great job of providing physically challenging activities with individual fulfillment as well as that espirit des corps feeling that comes from being in a group with a shared purpose.

Soon I will be reviewing a book on Pain for the magazine, and I think you will be interested in some of the things said by "pain" experts and my responses.

Yes, David, there is a Cross for everyone, to be endured and not changed or healed.

As always, thanks for your good thoughts and insights.
PJ Johnston
8 years ago
There's no room left to contribute to this thread without aspersions of being a whiner/throwing a pity party/avoiding one's cross/contributing to a degenerate psychotherapy culture - rather like the adult version of a playground bullying situation, I should think, where you are emotionally blackmailed to feel bad about anything and everything you might do to communicate your pain to others and get the people who are injuring you to stop.  I'm a little disappointed to see the conversation developing in that manner even with an advocate pushing in the opposite direction, however.

Here's what I might have felt comfortable saying before reading the earlier comments in this thread, and will write anyway to avoid allowing more aggressive voices to dominate conversation:

I was born with a physical disability.  In addition to suffering random knee dislocation, I cannot run in a normal manner and walk with a limp.  Participation in PE and recess was mandatory, so there was no way to keep this disability private.  Your mileage may vary, but I think this was sufficient "branding" to account for permanent peer rejection.  I would find that any other activity I turned to (often with great success:  I became the school champion at nearly every non-sport activity I became involved in) was either itself already branded with stigma or would become so if enough of the permanently-branded "uncool" kids became involved in it.  So if you were ever in the "out-group," you could not get out of it again later.  Classmates might themselves be branded as uncool just by befriending or even showing compassion to one of the "uncool" kids.

I had to start college in my early teens to experience social acceptance for the first time.  I have never had close friendships with anyone in my immediate peer group, nor has anyone in that age group ever wanted to be friends with me.  Friends are on average 10-15 years older, and romantic relationships have all been with people at least a generation older than myself.

I look back and I don't see things done wrong - I didn't retaliate, beat people up, carry grudges, or (most of the time) tell the teacher.  I didn't change my behavior much to avoid or provoke criticism, but decided to be myself.  And I pursued my own real passions and interests.  You know what?  It doesn't matter.  Certain kinds of disabilities and injuries cause permanent social branding that is deep enough to severely disrupt "normal" patterns of emotional bonding.  It's a shame that this is so, and even more deplorable that we let such situations continue on the misguided notion that we somehow coddle the emotionally weak if we show any real compassion.
8 years ago
While I don't have any current experience with this subject, I have an idea that what my children dealt with some years ago has not changed.  In one respect it may have gotten worse with the overly aggressive behaviors of some parents in Little League.  We have all  heard or read about those stories.  I have both a son and daughter with developmental disabilities so I can compare their experiences in urban public grade and high schools.  Both of them were teased and tormented but my son was the one who got it in spades.  He was very thin, wore glasses and was a klutz, as vulnerable as they come.  Physical Education in a mainstream class was hell on earth for him. My daughter was in an adaptive P.E. class and was more protected. Middle and High School were the worst years.  My son was even attacked by a girl at his middle school! 

I found school personnel largely ineffective and unresponsive and social workers to have little to offer.  So, in a simple-minded way I devised a family response. It was a response of anger.  When I heard about an incident from one of them, I was angry and allowed them to be angry to.  "That was wrong!!"  "That was unfair!!'   We knew about righteous anger from reading about Jesus's anger in the Bible.  Victimology was the cause celebre at the time. (Now, too).  I didn't want my children growing up with that mentality. 

Among the positives in this situation were Cub Scouts, American Youth Soccer and Girls Scouts.  I credit the adults in these programs for the sensitive way they included my children in activiies.  Then there was Special Olympics, a God-send.
They both found so much joy, fun and increase in self-esteem in their participation.
(Obama's remark still rankles).  I think the end result for them was the positives outweighing the cruelties as they both love sports.....all sports, sports trivia, watching and attending sports events.....it is a sports household!  So, while we carry our crosses and try to do God's will, we pray for joy in the doing!
we vnornm
8 years ago
There is zero whining in your post.

I hope everyone reads it three times.

I wrote this piece because I think many people experience or have experienced very real pain about this and many don't  get it, don't see it.

In psychobabble and theobabble terms, there' a lot of denial going on about the sports wound, there's not enough dialog, it's an unacknowledged bias, it marginalizes people, it prevents true community building, both the matriarchy and patriarchy don't consult others about it, and it's one of those things that if it generalizes to other situations makes toxic our fundamental option, and I'm sure goes against the beatitudes.

Sorry for pontificating, I know there's lot of exceptions, but there's bullying going on regarding this issue. Please, readers, if you see this going on, think of an appropriate and gentle Christian response. Please excuse this rant. bill

 
we vnornm
8 years ago
Comment 11 was in response to Comment 9.


Janice,

The teachers and parents in our school district are and were incredibly sensitive to the needs of special education students, like my son who has Down syndrome. He tells me he has never been teased for his convention. Our county has the largest concentration of special education children/adults due to 2 psychiatric centers and 2 developmental centers closing and being in the vicinity of several prisons, so alot of people work in social services and are very kind outside of work. (Maybe this is a story!) Right now I think it has become "cool" to help those with special needs and many teens reach out to their classmates in special education.

But I have seen the incredible pressures of sports and competition and the kids being affected now may NOT be in special education, but are just immersed in the mainstream. And we don't notice it enough.

bill

p.s. Obama's remark had a much different impact on my son, who reads the papers online. He had bowled 102 in a Special Olympics game and came home very proud, saying "Dad, I bowl better than the President.

 
8 years ago
Being a girl, maybe I shouldn't comment on this subject, but here goes ....

Growing up  I hated team sports -  I couldn't see well and didn't do well.  It wasn't until college that I realized  one can be physically fit and love exercise that doesn't pit you against other people but only againt yourself -  yoga, running, weight training, tai chi, etc.  I think team sports are pretty much a waste of time and I  have never been interested in guys who play sports or like sports.

I don't think women usually experience the "sports wound" in the same way men do,  but I think they have about the same sense of awfulness about the "beauty wound".   I think we should work on society as a whole so that things like sports ability and beauty aren't worshipped as virtues.

David Cruz-Uribe
8 years ago
To understand the sports wound I think it is important to look at the social context in which it occurs.  Mr. Van Ornum points in this direction when he talks about the importance of sports in our culture, but he does not go far enough.  At the heart of the problem, I think, is the way in which we have privileged sports in schools, beginning in middle school (if not earlier) and continuing through the university level.   In almost every setting, athletes are at or near the top of the social hierarchy:  jocks are the "cool" kids, treated preferentially by those in authority.  Even if they do not abuse their positions (becoming "jock bullies") they are still "more equal than others." 

I suffered through this in high school as a marginal athlete:  I wanted to be popular and being on a team (no matter how wretched I was) gave me some access to the elite social circles.  It was only as an adult, however, that I saw how the privileging of athletics distorted the social structure of schools.  My work takes me to Europe frequently and I have many friends there.  Many are sport fanatics; one gave up a chance to play pro soccer for Real Madrid to get his PhD.  But in Europe, sports and sports success are completely divorced from schools.   There are school athletic facilities, and while in some places (e.g. Germany) there is emphasis on healthy bodies as well as healthy minds, sports are clearly secondary.  There aren't any inter-scholastic teams; if you want to play a team sport you join a club after school.


we vnornm
8 years ago



-Original Message-
From: George Kyeremeh
Sent: Sep 8, 2010 5:40 PM
To: william vanornum
Subject: Re: AMERICA 9-1-10


Dear Dr. VanOrnum,
There is no doubt that sports are very important in the life of the Ghanaian today. They have always been but they receive more support these days. For most young boys and girls, they have to go the hard way to become well-known in sports because most schools and colleges emphasize the academics more than any form of sports. Unfortunately, most students who do well in sports are academically weak and so they do not receive the needed support until they make it to the national or international scene. Most sports men and women have their struggles but once they make it they become heroes and are adored. Few families promote sports in Ghana because of the fear of their children lagging behind academically. One can hardly see the kind of enthusiasm parents have for sports in USA in Ghana. The Ghanaian child will have to mostly make it on his or her own, except children from the typically sports families who know and understand sports. The case in point is the Ghanaian team that made it to the Soccer World Cup in South Africa. If one were to find out from the players how they got to that position, one would be amazed at the struggles they have been through. This notwithstanding, athletes and footballers in Ghana command a lot of following and they have many favors, they easily win the hearts of others and sometimes they are the most attractive ones. Bullying in sports is normal and the weak ones cannot stand it. If you are not good you will be pushed aside by your fellows and many end up as spectators. 
we vnornm
8 years ago
Crystal,

More than a few guys will feel better after reading your comments.

The "beauty wound" is real. In all other areas of our lives we have tried to have "equal opportunity" and use protests and make laws and even conduct warfare toward this end. It doesn't work this way in romance. Sadly, some will find few opportunities in the romantic world, even when doing all the things Dr. Abby (or the pop psychology books) say they should do.

This isn't whining, it's just acknowledging a sad fact.

amdg, bill
we vnornm
8 years ago
David,

Thank you very much for your cross-cultural comparisons. I did not know this and I like the sound of it. The kinds of systems you are talking about would lower the school taxes here and perhaps the money could be used elsewhere. Thanks for writing. best, bill
we vnornm
8 years ago
Fr. George,

It's so interesting that the way you have described the role of sports in schools in your home country is similar to what I just learned about European school systems. I understand the educational system in Ghana is making great strides and it is something to be proud of. Your country is a leader for many other nations in Africa to follow.

Interesting, too, how you describe the bullying.

best, bill
Stanley Kopacz
8 years ago
I wasn't really interested in sports and still am not.  I resonate with Crystal's comments on fitness versus sports.  After a nonsports childhood, in my 20's, I took up with karate for a while, followed by weightlifting and running which I still do today, along with dancing, hiking and occasional white water canoeing.  I think a lot of my friends who were active in sports in their early years suffer from the injuries they sustained in that time, especially the ones who played football.  Nothing like having your spine sheared from getting hit high and low from opposite sides.  Now I am 61, energetic and fit and almost totally pain free.  Sports didn't have a thing to do with it.  How many people hurt themselves overdoing something to score a point.  Although on the small side in my early years, I somehow managed to avoid being bullied for the most part.  I got my self-esteem from other quarters.  Anyway, make your body as fit and strong as possible, and avoiding sports is a help.  And the best thing about physical fitness and health is what it does for the mind.
we vnornm
8 years ago
Great points. Evidence continues to come in about previously unacknowledged brain damage occurring in football, professional and otherwise. Soccer is another sport that places participants to be at-risk for concussions. Any concussion is a serious injury, but the second and third concussions can do damage that won't show up until later in life. Isn't it great to look down or across, high up on a mountain trail? best, bill
8 years ago
This may have no relevance for this discussion but one of the most prestigious secondary education systems in the country requires that all students play sports during each season, fall, winter and spring.  That is New England's prep schools.  There are obviously exceptions for certain students but all are required unless physically unable to compete.


I do not know what the effect of this is but generally it is just assumed you will play or compete and it is obviously valued.  I do not know if there are exceptions for those engaged heavily in other extra curricular activities such as drama or the school publications.  Here is the statement on the Hotchkiss website.



''Our athletic program and facilities are specifically designed to handle the community's range of interests and needs. To that end, the School offers a variety of interscholastic, intramural, and recreational sports. Our goal is for all of our students to leave Hotchkiss with a lifelong appreciation for fitness. Consequently, we require an athletic activity in each of our three seasons, although students may apply for a special project in lieu of athletics during one or two seasons. Interscholastic teams practice each afternoon for approximately two hours and have games on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Club and instructional sports meet four times a week for an hour.'' 



From Phillips Exeter

''Our program, grounded in integrity, promotes character development and collaboration.  We believe that athletic competition is a powerful teacher.  Physical and mental challenges in a team context offer athletes the opportunity to develop leadership skills, self–confidence and a commitment to others that will inspire them to lead productive and active lives.'' 


When I went to a Catholic High School I played basketball for the school during the winter but was involved in intramurals in the fall and spring.  About half our class participated.  Most of the guys were only so so athletes but we all had fun and competed.  When we get together now, about 40 of us see each other some time during the year, it is a mixture of a few of the athletes but most never played a sport outside of intramurals and we all get along very well.  Maybe I was unaware of bullying but I never saw it.  It obviously exists but just how prevalent it is I do not know.  I just never saw it.
we vnornm
8 years ago
David,

Good questions. bill
8 years ago
My first name is not Darin.  I'm the guy whom Dr. Van Ornum quotes in his post.  An intro is needed.  I'm a happily married 60-year-old who is the proud father of two young women, both of whom are well-adjusted persons and faithful Christians.  I've provided a link to a webpage that featured an earlier post written by Dr. Van Ornum on ''sports wound.''

http://americanmentalhealthfoundation.org/entry.php?id=135

Clicking on ''Dr. William Van Ornum'' on that webpage accessed another webpage that provided Dr. Van Ornum's e-mail address.  I wrote to him for the purpose of thanking him for bringing to the attention of his readers a problem that some boys face as they are growing up - a problem with which I'm quite familiar from my own childhood experiences.  I briefly described my own background so he would know why I had read his post.

The second time he wrote back to me in response to my e-mail, he asked me if I would be willing to write a series of e-mails for him describing childhood experiences of my own that related to this problem.  With my permission he would quote from them for a blog that he was going to set up at another website.  Of course, he also said that he would not give my name.  I said that I would be delighted to do that.  I wanted to help kids in some way.  I felt like I was doing a good deed.  Going into a lot of detail, I spent several hours writing six lengthy e-mails over a period of a week or two.  What Dr. Van Ornum has featured in his post is an assortment of comments I made from more than one of the e-mails that I wrote to him, with just a little bit of accomodative paraphrasing.

I saw his blog here yesterday morning.  I did not expect much of a response.  So, I was surprised last night when I saw otherwise.  I'm dismayed and even quite disgusted with several of the responses.  I should have figured that a topic of this sort would attract people who defend the bullying of children.

I have a few comment to say to pathetic jerks who consider any discussion of this sort to be nothing but just a bunch of whining.  Your cruelty is stunning.  Are you so stupid that you expect children to be held responsible to the same extent as middle-aged adults?  Did it ever occur to you that many children have no idea what really is going on in their lives?  Have you forgotten that children are often ignorant of what they could do to improve their situation?  Where is your compassion?  I dare say that any self-professed Christian who defends the bullying of children is nothing less than a hypocrite.  And before any of you call me a whiner, let me remind you that a whiner talks only about himself.  As you may have noticed, I have spoken out about the terrible way friends of mine were treated.

                                                             (to be continued)
8 years ago
                                                    (continuing where I left off ...)

I have some comments addressed to a few of the respondents.

Peter Lake:  How is the sports wound different from other wounds?  Athletic prowess is held up as the standard of masculinity.  So, nonathletic boys who have no interest in sports are negatively stereotyped as effeminate and sometimes are even accused of having homosexual tendencies.  (Has anyone ever heard of Brian Sims or Esera Tuaolo?)  This cruel stigmatization often starts when the boy is in his preteens, a time when his intellectual self-defense is low or nonexistent.  Sometimes self-hatred is internalized and continues into adulthood.

Shayne Labudda:  Forcing nonathletic children who have no interest in sports to participate in them in mandatory P.E. classes is outrageous and ineffectual (as far as actually promoting physical fitness is concerned).  Mandatory sports-centered P.E. has been the bane of existence for generations of nonathletic children.  How many boys' P.E. coaches are morally opposed to athletic kids bullying nonathletic classmates?  Talk about institutionalized bullying.  Nonathletic boys are considered to be sissies, wimps, or ''fags'' and therefore not deserving of any consideration or respect.  What nonathletic kids really need to do is get on some sort of exercise program.  Please click on the following link to read an article about the innovative PE4Life program, which even had the unintended result of decreasing bullying in a school district in which it was implemented.

http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-22-fall-2002/personal-best

Incidentally, for over two years I've been working with a personal trainer at a local health club on a bodybuilding program.  Therefore, I have the advantage of being able to compare what the mandatory sports-centered P.E. was like for the nonathletic boys of my generation with my current health club experience.  The difference is as great as night and day.  In fact, I get more exercise in a single workout session with my trainer than I ever did in a single YEAR of mandatory P.E.

David Smith:  You're beneath contempt.  You sound like a sycophant.  So you didn't ''play the wimp''?  Well, good for you.  As I pointed out above, did it ever occur to you that some victims of bullying might not know what to do?  Perhaps help from caring parents is not available to them.  Also, did it ever occur to you that many (if not most) bullied children never even tell their parents what is happening at school?  Ever hear of the ''honor code'' that even bullied boys adhere to, as I certainly did when I was a kid?  I do believe that bullied children should be taught how to be resilient and cope with different bullying situations; but I don't believe in blaming the victim, as you apparently do.  Bullyng is a SIN.  The bully CHOOSES to bully.  He is not forced or conditioned to bully.  I suspect that you side with bullies.  After all, contrary to the old stereotype that bullies suffer from low self-esteem, bullies are often popular students (which is no doubt where your loyalties lie).  And as far as ''pity parties'' are concerned, I was trying to help kids by providing Dr. Van Ornum with insight for his blog, not to call attention to myself.

I had to get this unpleasantness out of the way.  I will have a positive, constructive message in my next post.  At least that's my intention.

Again, thank you, Dr. Van Ornum, for bringing this issue to the attention of your readers.
8 years ago
Dr. Van Ornum, you said
 
 
''JR Cosgrove, I suspect that in my work as a clinical psychologist I have worked with those persons for whom sports is not fulfilling or causes anxieities. Thus my perspective may be different from yours and I may be much, much more aware of this.''
 
 
A couple things:  First, I grew up with people who had no aptitude for sports and played with them, mainly in grade school.  I just never noticed bullying and I was one of the better athletes.  Obviously being good athletically was valued by most boys.  That is not something new to our society.  Maybe if I wasn't a good athlete, I would have noticed, not necessarily bullying, but a social exclusion that goes along with any competitive activity.  However, as I said I may not have been the best one to observe this behavior.  Most of my friends in grade school came from the neighborhood and we did all sorts of things together that were physical and not all were sports and few of my friends ever played sports on any organized teams.  A lot of my grade school friends came from the Boy Scout troop that my classmates belonged to.    
 
 
Second, if you are going to do research on this topic, I would go to the New England prep schools and find out what their experiences are.  There are about 25-30 of them and not geographically distant from your present location.  There are a couple just over the border in Connecticut, less than an hour away.  I pointed out that nearly all students participate and the schools obviously think it is good.  They also would have a high percentage of students who are not very good athletes to form either anecdotal evidence or even controlled tests.  
 
 
Finally, the real issue may be competition.  There is a lot of competition that goes on when we are young and not everyone may be comfortable with this.  Sports is just one outlet for this.  
David Cruz-Uribe
8 years ago
I think the quotes provided by J.R. Cosgrove nicely illustrate the rationalizations given for privileging sports in American education, arguments that are implicit in some of the other responses as well.  Organized, competitive sports are held to be unique in their ability to teach discipline, teamwork, leadership, "manliness", etc.  As a Ph.D. mathematician, I was personally amused by Mr. Van Ornum's comment about the importance of sports in teaching competitiveness so that students can excel in mathematics. 

I do not deny that sports can (though do not automatically do) teach these lessons/build these character traits.  What is wrong is the assumption that these are the only ways to learn them.  My son is a dancer (classical ballet) and puts in more hours of training and practice than all but the most dedicated high school athletes.  At this risk of a distraction, I would also encourage readers to look up the youth orchestra programs that Hugo Chavez has created in the slums of Caracas and in other cities.  These programs command the same attention and money that a high school athletic program does, and yield the same desired results:  students used to hard work, self-discipline and teamwork. 

I would also second Darin's comments about the culture of hyper-masculinity that surrounds competitive sports.  
we vnornm
8 years ago
Note to all:

I am happy this discussion is occurring. What the bishops are denying or not denying is an important topic; it is crucial to know what injustices are going on here and around the world; and the work of theologians in reference to Bendedict and the Magisteriusm should be a concern of all Catholics. But the effect of one person on any of these issues may be ephemeral.

However, this topic of "the sports wound" brings out that there is bias and injustice going on around us-which we might not see. There is also too much bullying that goes on and it's n ot dealt with. And it's something in our control and in our power to change. That's my bottom line.

"Darin," thank you again for your thoughts, I know they are having a positive impact.

I hope others will weigh in on this. bill van ornum
we vnornm
8 years ago
Mr. David Cruz-Uribe, SFO


Thank you for the information about the Hugo Chavez program. We need more programs like this. There is considerable research linking mathematica ability to music ability, especially among the gifted.

I see the "fantasy" leagues such as occurring in football, where people pick a roster and accumulate statisitics for their team, as one way that sports encourage math. The "Bill James" approach to baseball emphasizes comple mathematical analyses, and even the ever-present box scores or horsing odds require a basic lnowledge of math skills, which more and more young people are not acquiring.

But your point that there are many other ways to encourage learners other than through sports is an excellent one. thanks for your comments, dr. william van ornum, ph.d.
Peter Lakeonovich
8 years ago
Dear Darin,

Thank you for your comments, especially for calling us "pathetic jerks" and causing in us a "pathetic jerk wound." 

You have, albeit surely unintentionally, perpetuated the cruel stigmatization of me that started when I was preteen as someone who has no interest in being a non-pathetic jerk.  I will submit a follow-up post later to advise on what the resulting self-hatred is causing in me.

Clearly, you see I don't buy your line of reasoning.

And this extends into adulthood, as for example, where certain men are better able to provide for their families and be leaders of the faith in their families. 

I would be willing to bet that St. Joseph, the carpenter, might not have had any interest in sports, but he could defend himself physically if needed and, if forced to, could probably have thrown a decent spiral or fastball.  Every young, healthy boy should be able to perform a minimum of athletic acts, just as we expect every healthy student to be able to perform a minimum of academic acts.  If for some health (including mental health) reason, a child cannot perform this, then that situation deserves special treatment and is outside the lines of this discussion. 

Sports teach many valuable qualities, and I know from experience that in underprivileged areaa, teams are like families and coaches like father figures or mother figures.  For that, thank be to God.

     *     *    *     *

"When the time of David’s death drew near,
he gave these instructions to his son Solomon:
“I am going the way of all flesh.
Take courage and be a man.
Keep the mandate of the Lord, your God, following his ways
and observing his statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees
as they are written in the law of Moses,
that you may succeed in whatever you do,
wherever you turn, and the Lord may fulfill
the promise he made on my behalf when he said,
‘If your sons so conduct themselves
that they remain faithful to me with their whole heart
and with their whole soul,
you shall always have someone of your line
on the throne of Israel.’”

Bill Caudill
8 years ago
I am ABSOLUTELY OPPOSED to nonathletic boys who have no interest in sports being forced to participate in competitive team sports in mandatory P.E. classes that are centered solely around sports and don't even offer any exercise programs.  I have this to say to J.R. Cosgrove and all the others who think like him:  You can have your sports-centered P.E. classes.  I agree that some boys should play sports, that they benefit in certain ways from playing sports.  The traditional sports-centered P.E. should be available to the school athletes and other students who WANT to participate in sports as an ELECTIVE.  Either genuine physical fitness classes should be provided for the nonathletic students, or they should be left alone. 

Why do you want to force nonathletic boys to participate in sports?  Suppose you're an athlete in a junior-high or high school mandatory P.E. class.  One day the class divides into two teams to play, say, a game of basketball; and you happen to be the leader of one of the teams.  You and the leader of the other team start to choose who will be on your respective teams.  Will you want to have nonathletes on your team?  OF COURSE, NOT.  If I were an athlete, I wouldn't, either.  The more lousy players you have on your team, the morely likely your team will lose.  And the presence of the lousy nonathletes will be resented for that very reason.  I ought to know because I had that very experience (except that it was baseball games I was forced to participate in, even though I had no interest in baseball or any other ball game).  I guess I was just an unmanly wimp.  So, why do you want to inflict this misery upon unwanted nonathletic boys? 

An online friend of mine who lives in Great Britain told me about the time his mandatory sports-centered P.E. class formed two teams for a game of cricket.  Of course, as is so often the case in traditional P.E. classes, no exercise programs were ever provided for nonathletic boys such as my friend, who had a scrawny build and was bullied because of it.  When his team lost, he was blamed.  After the game one of his teammates walked over to him and smashed his face with a cricket bat and broke his nose.  The punk was merely suspended from school for a few days.  He should have been sent to the British equivalent of juvenile detention.  If someone walked up to you on a city street and smashed your face with a baseball bat, you would see him in court.  But because this happened to a nonathletic boy in a P.E. class and the perpetrator showed potential as an athlete, it wasn't considered a crime.  When the punk returned to school, he showed his repentance by shoving my friend into a locker.  Is this the sort of character that sports supposedly builds?

The best way for physically unfit kids (or adults, for that matter) to get into shape is by getting on an exercise program.  When are the sports fans going to realize that promoting sports is not the same as promoting physical fitness?  What does a fat boy need to do in order to lose weight?  Stand out in the middle of a baseball field doing nothing much of the time?  No, he needs to engage in constant physical movement.  There is absolutely no rationale - I repeat, NO RATIONALE - for forcing nonathletic boys to play sports.  Guys can get into top physical condition without participating in sports.  I know of two Navy SEALS who never participated in sports in high school, but followed exercise regimens.  Can you get any tougher than a Navy SEAL?

Whoever decided in the beginning that mandatory P.E. classes would be sports-centered must have really hated nonathletic boys with an anti-intellectual passion.  Well, you know, they're just a bunch of sissies, anyway.  I can just see it now.  Here are the bright folks who came up with mandatory P.E.  ''See that four-eyes over there with his nose stuck in a book?  What a sissy!  He probably thinks he's better than everyone because he's so smart; and he probably has homosexual tendencies, too.  Let's put him in his place by forcing him to play sports against REAL BOYS.  That will cut him down to size.  The bullying will make a man out of him.''
we vnornm
8 years ago
Peter,

Perhaps this is off topic a bit, but I recall how David would play music for the King when the King was depressed (hope I got this right). Again, you and others affirm the good qualities of sports.

Darin: I believe your opinion needs to be heard by others. You aren't disagreeing about the value of sports, you are bringing to our attenton instances when sports become coercive and not in the best advantage of some of the partiipants. Again I will note that I have seen with my own eyes what you describe.

bvo
Peter Lakeonovich
8 years ago
Darin,

No sympathy or compassion for the dumb jock whose natural God-given talents are on the athletic field, not the classroom, yet has to maintain a certain GPA in order to showcase his God-given talents?  Keep in mind, there is no such requirement for the bookworm, who can focus solely on school and not try to balance both.

Besdies, the distinctions here between bookworm and dumb jock are too sharp.  The truth is we are seeing more and more student-athletes excel in both arenas.

Sorry for your experiencing the cruelty of chidlren (and, by the way, the cruelty of children happens in non-sports contexts as well), but it just sounds like sour grapes to me, and what you are recommending (i.e., segregating athletic and non-athletic children) is preposterous.  Children develop at different times and talents emerge at different times. 

Besides, without the wimps on the basketball team how could you ever experience passing them the ball for an easy layup and watching them glow with joy after making it?
we vnornm
8 years ago
Peter and Darin,

The ref here is getting ready to step in...perhaps time to chill a little...oaky? tx...bill

I have to sign-off for awhile...please help keep everything going within the rules of the game here...no verbal riots...thanks.
Bill Caudill
8 years ago
Pete, have you ever heard of Raoul Wallenberg?  He was one of the greatest heroes of World War II, even though (ironically enough) he wasn't even a soldier.  Wallenberg was a Swede; his country was neutral in the war.  Wallenberg could speak at least five languages fluently.  He earned a degree in architecture at the University of Ann Arbor in the state of Michigan.  Their Architecture Department is quite demanding.  I guess you could say that Wallenberg was a nerd.

When the war had started, Wallenberg was running an import-export business with a Hungarian Jew, who informed him of reports of the increasingly desperate situation of the Jews in his homeland.  Coming from an influential and affluent family, Wallenberg prevailed upon Swedish government officials to send him to Budapest under diplomatic cover to conduct rescue operations to save people's lives.  Surviving several assassination attempts, Wallenberg repeatedly put his life on the line for others.  He saved the lives of more than 10,000 Jews.

As if this weren't enough to affirm his heroism, when the Red Army had driven the Germans out of Hungary, Wallenberg and his chauffear (a Jewish coal miner whose life Wallenberg had saved) were abducted by agents of Stalin's brutal secret police to a notorious prison in Moscow, where they disappeared into the gulag.  The date of Wallenberg's assumed death is disputed.  According to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Wallenberg once was brought before the Soviet Foreign Minister, who offered to release him to live as a free man in the Soviet Union in exchange for publicly denouncing the West for propaganda purposes.  True to his principles, Wallenberg rejected this offer and returned to the gulag.

This extremely courageous and compassionate man, according to his half-sister, "detested competitive team sports."  I'm not saying there's any virtue in not liking sports; but I'd say that Wallenberg was certainly more of a man than somebody like the former New York Jets quarterback Joe Willie Namath, a self-centered playboy who during the summer of 1970 announced on The Late Show with Johnny Carson, "Women are only good for sex."  (I liked my late mother's reaction to this:  "Why, he's not even good-looking.")

When I referred to "pathetic jerks who consider any discussion of this sort to be nothing but just a bunch of whining," I was not referring to you.  And as far as being physically strong is concerned, I work out at my health club four times a week on a bodybuilding program.  All that mandatory sports-centered P.E. did was to discourage me from being physically active.  You like sports?  Fine, I'm glad you enjoy them.  But please leave me out of it.
8 years ago
''I have this to say to J.R. Cosgrove and all the others who think like him:''
 
 
You have no idea how I think because I never stated it.  I told you what I observed and made some suggestions.  Sol I will state it for you to stop taking shots at imaginary demons.  
 
 
I believe all children should participate in some form of physical activity for their health and physical development, even handicapped children.  It doesn't have to be sports but sports is an obvious venue.  In fact dance is more demanding than most sports and my daughter was put in dance classes because the pediatrician said she was not very coordinated and the dance process would serve as both physical activity and a means to help with coordination.  After a couple years, she then decided to try gymnastics for the same reasons and then learned how to swim.  We took her and her brothers orienteering which can be very demanding and a lot of fun.  She went on to participate in school musicals and in her teens went back to dance.  Today she is physically fit and her coordination is evident.  One of my sons played hockey and in high school the hockey coach suggested all the players take dance lessons for coordination as well as for the cross training it provided.  Many including my son did.  Some then danced in the school play.
 
 
My business centers around physiological development so I understand the benefits of it, especially activities that develop the aerobic system.  So to me the challenge is how to get everyone involved in some form of strenuous physical activity on an ongoing basis from childhood on.  Maybe it could be bike riding or hiking or as we did for a couple years, orienteering or just running in the woods.  When I was a kid we spent an hour or more every day after school playing in which running was often a component of what we did.
 
Now take your shots.
Peter Lakeonovich
8 years ago
Darin,

Nothing wrong with weakness.

Calvary was the ultimate strength in absolute weakness.

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/weakness-strength.htm

Finally, remember that all good things (including sports) can be abused.  But correcting the abuse does not mean throwing out the good thing that is being abused.

God bless.
we vnornm
8 years ago
John,

Thank you for these beautiful thoughts and memories. I still remember the colored stripes on the croquet balls and mallets; the cats-eye and crystal clear marbles; using colored chalk to create the squares that become the hopscotch. best, bill 
Bill Caudill
8 years ago
I need to make a few clarifications.

When I referred to "pathetic jerks" in my first post, I was not referring to sports fans per se.  I was referring to anyone (including any readers of this blog who did not post any comments) who object to examining the problems that face different categories of children, calling such concerns "whining."  I was also referring to those who have a pro-bully attitude who apparently believe that bullying is normal and that the victims of bullying deserve to be blamed instead of the bullies.

Although I never had a desire to participate in any sport, I have always respected athletic achievement, just as I would any other endeavor requiring dedication and self-discipline.  I will even say that some boys should participate in competitive team sports.  If I had a teenage son who wanted to play football in high school, I would support him (with reservations).  But sports aren't for everyone.  It's an individual thing.  But try telling that to some sports fans.  What I object to is the coercive mindset of many of the promoters of school sports who apparently see little value in exercise programs being provided for nonathletic students.  They want all students to participate in sports, no matter how humiliating (or possibly even traumatic, as in the case of my British friend) the experience may be. 

Respect is a two-way street.  I think school athletes should be held accountable for the way they treat others off the playing field.  I grew up with a former university football player, who once beat up a friend of mine who was so short that he was having to take growth hormone injections.  I noticed that many (but not all) of the local football fans had no problem with his arrogance.

Ironically enough, as I've also noticed, sometimes "anti-sports" people are more compassionate towards athletes than their fans!  I've seen football fans watching a game on TV chortle when a player on the opposing team was injured so badly that he had to be taken off the playing field.  That's reprehensible.

The topic of this blog was nonathletic boys and the problems they face; but sports fans (wrongfully) felt that sports were under assault and therefore changed this blog into a sports board.  Dr. Van Ornum had already given the answer in his earlier post:  "Wise parents and teachers guide the youngster into pursuits where they have strengths or talents and can attain success.  Judo, karate, scouts, non-competitive sports, carpentry, archery, and many other venues offer boys with the 'sports wound' a chance to succeed."  This point was completely overlooked as the sports fans rushed to the defense of their beleaguered sports, despite the fact that sports occupies an overwhelmingly dominant position in our popular culture (sometimes to the detriment of other legitimate interests).  One of them even said that all boys must partake in sports (with the implication that boys who never participate in sports are incomplete, deficient human beings).  I beg to differ with such assertions.
we vnornm
8 years ago
Darin,

Now, at the end of the day here, I suspect many readers have thought about this topic, and will bring compassion and good judgment to at least a few young people who may be struggling with "the sports wound." This wouldn't have happened without you writing to me.
Perhaps you've made the world a slightly better place these last few days.

amdg, and best wishes, bill
Bill Caudill
8 years ago
Thank you, Dr. Van Ornum.
Bill Caudill
8 years ago
To the sports fans who posted here (or read this blog):  I'm not your enemy.  Best wishes.
we vnornm
8 years ago
Darin and Everyone:

Please be at Peace!

bill

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