Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I'm Worried

A few weeks ago we hosted a high school track meet here in beautiful downtown Kayenta, Arizona. We had 18 teams from around the 4 corners area (Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado) with over 700 young athletes competing.In the boys discus and shot we had over 70 competitors in each event with nearly 60 on the girls' side.
While on the surface this may seem like a very positive thing, lot's of kids participating in the great sport of Track and Field (as we call it here in the USA); lot's of kids who are physically active and trying to test themselves in a physical challenge. a look at the results is enough to give one pause.
I actually measured a 24 ft. discus throw (during the boys' competition) and this was not an anomally. While the winning throw for boys was 147'11", the last person to make the finals threw 101'.The girls' winner was 96' with a 77' throw making the finals. The shot was won with 44' and 32' respectively. 37' and 27' were enough to make the finals.

It worries me that many of our youth today are members of school teams and considered to be"athletes", yet many are not even physically fit. I guess the optimist in me says, "While at least they are trying and not home on the couch." The realist in me, however, says, "Where is our society at when anyone can put on a uniform and call themselves an athlete?" Sadly, as we have traveled around the 4 corners this past season for many meets, this is the norm. I have been coaching Track for 29 years now and the steady decline in overall performance and expectations is not merely a figment of my imagination.It is real and measurable.
Last week my son asked how high school Track was when I was his age. I guess my Mother knew that someday I would be asked that question and she had saved a bunch of newspaper clippings in a book. I pulled out the book and looked over the results with my son. Even I was suprised at the differences of 37 years or so. While the winning times and distances were not drastically different in many events, the biggest difference was in the competitive depth. As I looked at the results from 1973,the memories came back. To be on the team and compete in meets, you had to be able to give respectable performances.That is no longer the case it seems.
There are certainly pockets of excellence around the country, Tony Ciarelli's program in Southern California being a notable throwing mecca among others. But I believe most coaches would agree that the general fitness level of our youth has been on a drastic downslide for the past several decades. The measurable performances of Track and Field give hard evidence of that.

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