Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

Archive for November 22nd, 2009

Parents overestimate child fitness levels, guv'nor

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Anamarie Regino

Image by cliff1066™ via Flickr

Blimey! British mums and dads are blinkered into thinking their little yobs are running about when their lazy little gits really never push their nubby fingers away from the bangers and mash.

Oh, sorry about the faux Cockney. Let me rephrase it in American: British parents believe their children are exercising more than they actually are, thus putting them at greater risk of obesity. From the Beeb, er, the BBC:

Parents have big misconceptions about the amount of exercise their children take part in, according to the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

It says 71% of parents polled believe their children are “active enough,” but only one in 10 of the children say they are doing the recommended daily amount [activity for at least 60 minutes per day]. …

The BHF questioned nearly 1,000 UK parents with children aged eight to 15. … It produced a report called Couch Kids which shows that while the number of obese children has risen since the mid-1990s, there have been no major changes in children’s physical activity levels over the past decade. …

Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the BHF, said: “Mums and dads need to take the blinkers off about how active kids need to be in order to keep their hearts healthy.”

Hey, Dr. Knapton, get a period and speak in a language we all can understand!

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Jarvis Cocker also is extremely upset about the rising obesity rate in Britain.

Parents worldwide are pretty good at overestimating how healthy their little darlings are, figuring they’re Hercules when they’re more of a Klump. For example, a 2008 U.S. study found that parents of children with type 2 diabetes (the kind you’re at risk to get if you’re overweight) underestimated their child’s weight. (So did the child.)

Parents’ recognition of their child’s exercise activity and weight is like people’s opinions of Congress versus those of their own Congressmen: everyone else is bad, but my child is just fine. It doesn’t help, at least in the United States, that physical education in schools over the years has been a casualty of cuts for budgetary and academic reasons, but you could name thousands of other, legitimate societal reasons for obesity and the need for greater activity for children.

But it looks like the place to start is for parents to be the first ones to encourage more activity, whether through organized sports or no, rather than less, and to tell kids to get their arse outside. Bloody hell, I just can’t stay away from the British slang.

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'The junior high Paterno'

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“Junior high Paterno” is the nom de guerre the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune affixed to one Barry Crust, who is in his last year coaching middle school sports at Hudtloff Middle School in Lakewood, Wash. That’s not because Crust has coke bottle bottoms on his glasses, wears white socks with any shoes, and found late-career success by loosening his recruiting standards to include more criminals. It’s because Crust is old.

Crust started at Lakewood in 1967 and never went anywhere else, beginning his career one year after Paterno took the head job for Penn State’s football team and never went anywhere else. As the News Tribune itself noted, all Paterno had to do was coach football. By the newspaper’s calculation, Crust has coached the equivalent of 117 seasons — a “baseball coach for 42 years, a wrestling coach for 31 years, a football coach for 26 years, a fastpitch coach for 14 years. Factor in a couple of years of basketball and one each for track and volleyball … .” Crust retired as a physical education teacher in 1997, but he’ll finish his 118th and final season in the spring of 2010 when he coach’s Hudtloff’s baseball team.

The News Tribune asked Crust how kids and sports have changed over 42 years, naturally. Crust’s answers are not what you’d call, well, crusty:

— Girls aren’t just stuck in intramurals anymore, something Crust thought was “silly” and “unfair.”

— Other than being bigger and faster, and having different hairstyles, kids haven’t really changed much over the years.

— The biggest change has been the decline of the all-around athlete.

Crust fears the concept of the all-around athlete has been compromised by a youth-sports culture that demands specialized talents.

“We’ll have an after-school baseball practice from 3:15 to 5,” he said, “and then the kids are picked up for their next practice, which goes until 7. What that means is I’m not their only coach, so I’ve got to be flexible.

“Take bunting. If you don’t know how to bunt, I’ll show you. But if you’ve learned a different technique from somebody else, I don’t want to waste our time trying to undo everything.”

Interestingly, Crust credits spreading himself coaching over multiple sports as a reason why he lasted so long.

Not that Crust bemoans the relative brevity of any junior high sports season. To the contrary, he believes the schedule – two weeks of practice, five weeks of games, everything wrapped up in two months – kept him fresh during the three decades he spent as full-time P.E. instructor and busy-bodied coach.

It sounds like Crust kept some perspective about youth sports and his role in them. No wonder he appears to be retiring happy, and on his own terms.

Written by rkcookjr

November 22, 2009 at 8:46 pm