Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Single Sport Athletes ... err ... Farmers

Before we started the farm (and during the first year of farming) I was a head girls varsity soccer coach in our community. I loved soccer, coaching, and impacting students so it was a perfect fit for me. But, what it wasn't a perfect fit for was the farm and it seemed that just as soccer got busy the farm got busy so I knew that soccer had to end if I wanted to farm. But, if you have had any sort of involvement in high school sports over the past 10 years or so you have experienced or heard of the push towards single-sport focus. What I mean is that many students are moving away from playing four different seasons of sports and beginning to focus in on one sport and playing/practicing year-round.

It just too me about 30 seconds and a Google search for "single sport high school athletes" to come up with article after article talking about how it is detrimental to the athlete in so many ways. Here is one article and here is another. A few quotes really stood out to me ... "'A lot of parents are going to fast-track their kids,' Cuthbert says, 'and you've got to be careful about burning a kid out.'"
"Experts and may area high school coaches contend the one-sport emphasis is premature for an athlete who has yet to reach full physical and emotional maturity and has the ability and desire to play multiple sports." 
"A growing number of young athletes are focusing on playing a single sport, putting themselves at greater risk of serious injuries, physicians said." 
"Some parents believe that specialization can help their children becomes stars, earning a college scholarship or even a pro career." 
"The movement toward specialization may produce more successful athletes, but it also results in more injuries. More than 3.5 million children 14 and younger were treated for sports injuries in 2010, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. In contrast, 1.9 million were treated in 2002, according to the Centers for Disease Control."
You can see there is quite a feeling that this specialization in sports for students is not a great idea. I tend to agree with that because of what I saw with the students I coached ... or the ones I didn't get to coach because they were "focused" on only one sport. But, this is far from a sports blog ... so what does it have to do with farming?

To put it simply I think much of agriculture (like American youth sports) is too fractured and specialized. Of course I could go on and on about how specialization in agriculture is something I don't care for, but that really isn't my current frustration. My current frustration stems from the news I heard on the way into town this morning ... the farm bill will have to wait until after the election.

Of course this is the same farm bill that I went to Washington D.C. to discuss two summers ago (I guess things take time). But, it really isn't the fact that we won't have one that frustrates me (I don't know enough about it). What really has me down is the fractured state of agriculture in the United States (or the world). As I listened to the radio and read a few news reports I found that not only was the legislation fractured along party lines, but also along farmer lines. Farmers are at times lined up fighting against other farmers!

While in D.C. I had one senators staffer tell me that all I wanted was the playing field tipped in my direction. That I wanted an advantage, "because that is what everyone wants". That made me angry ... it still makes me angry! I don't want an advantage ... I just want to be able to do my thing and I want to be able to look at things holistically ... not fractured and compartmentalized.

It seems if we continue down the fractured and specialized road we will just find ourselves with twice as many injuries each year ... you know ... like we are seeing in youth sports partially as a result of the "benefits" of specialization.

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