Essayfür Kid’s Wear Magazine, „Childhood, Youth and Sport“
Childhood, Youth and Sport
1. Favourite Loser
Charles Brown, nicknamed Charlie, is the son of a hairdresser, the well-behaved big brother of naughty Sally and master of a nutty beagle named Snoopy. From the outside he appears to live in a nice, neat American suburb. But take a closer look and you’ll see it’s a world of absurdities, failures and bizarre disasters. Charlie is always well dressed and smart, very well-spoken with extraordinary social skills, but unfortunately he’s an eternal loser and incredibly unlucky in life. Anything that has a slightest hint of competition – be it in the spelling bee or on the athletics track – there’s only ever one loser, Charlie Brown. Through the turmoil of destiny, he becomes the baseball team’s manager, and when the team experiences their one and only win (which was stripped later on), he gets a taste of victory. Charlie Brown teaches us to empathise with losers and what it means to be disillusioned, humiliated, disheartened and lonely in sport. After the team’s umpteenth loss, he lies awake at night and wonders, “What did I do wrong?” He hears a voice, “It won’t happen overnight.”
2. Striking Success
Not exactly new, but without a doubt as popular as ever, with e-sports you fight in a computer game. Is that sport? Some say yes, others no. While e-sports are recognised as sports in countries such as US, France and China (by their official sports federations), the German Olympic Sports Federation says, “no way”. What do young Pro Gamers think? After all, this craze has its own associations like the IeSF (International e-Sports Federation), with its own rankings including the top 20 of the last e-Sports World Cup:
1. Serbia/ 147 points
2. Korea/ 132 points
3. China/ 113 points
4. Finland/ 111 points
5. Thailand/ 67 points
6. Philippines/ 63 points
6. Romania/ 63 points
8. Chinese Taipei/ 48 points
9. Switzerland/ 43 points
9. Russia/ 43 points
11. Israel/ 38 points
12. South Africa/ 33 points
13. Sweden/ 32 points
14. Azerbaijan/ 22 points
14. Belgium/ 22 points
14. Georgia/ 22 points
14. Indonesia/ 22 points
14. Mongolia/ 22 points
14. Tunisia/ 22 points
20. Australia/ 11 points; Iran/ 11 points
Interesting ‘aside’: Despite having muscular dystrophy, the Korean Seung Hyun Park, aka “Space”, won a number of “WarCraft III” battles against players without disabilities.
3. Grandmaster Chess
Shortly after his 12th birthday, little Bobby Fischer takes part in the US Youth (Chess) Championships for the first time. With average success. But then the lightning bolt hits; at 13, Bobby is suddenly catapulted to chess fame, after the “game of the century” which he wins in spectacular fashion against the twice-his-senior Donald Byrne. Bobby is US Champion at 14 (the youngest ever at
the time). At 15 he leaves school to finally play chess full-time, and in the same year, the teenager is awarded the title of Grand Master.
4. Good Boy
Find your greatness. That’s what Nike told us to do at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. And you can’t help thinking there’s something in that. Take Nathan Sorrell, for example. At twelve years old and clearly overweight at 200 pounds, he starts to find his greatness. He started off wobbling and panting in an advert and ended up in the hearts of the nation. Or as a YouTube comment puts it, “No matter how
slow he runs, he’s still lapping everyone on the couch.” Of course, there are haters, too. It seems Nike wasn’t the only one to profit from it; “He goes to my school, I don’t know how he was able to get in a commercial but he did lose some weight”, said another comment. If you watch the YouTube clip again, you have to check out the interview with Nathan at the end.
5. Ground Control to Little Tom
Californian Tom Schaar is just four when he takes up skateboarding. It soon becomes clear he’s a natural. He trains and trains and trains. At eleven, he’s flying. As the youngest skateboarder ever, in 2011 in California’s Tehachapi, he lands a ‘900°’, a two-and-a-half rotation around his own axis. And it gets better. Just a year later Tom masters a 1080° in the quarter pipe, the first skater ever to do so. That’s three full rotations. Smashing the 13-year-old 900° record set by superstar Tony Hawk.
6. The Fearless Young Boxer
8 a.m. Get up.
9 a.m. Have a big and healthy breakfast: Scrambled eggs with at least three eggs plus wholewheat bread with butter or margarine, vegetables such as peppers, carrots, tomatoes, etc., freshly squeezed juice, maybe a glass of milk, too.
11 a.m. First training session, 15-minute warm-up, 20–30 minutes stretching, 30–60 minutes running* (mixing it up every day; jogs, intervals, power runs, etc.), then 10–20 minutes rope skipping and shadow boxing, then 10–15 minutes loosening up, stretches, cool-down. End of the session: 12.30 p.m.
*Running is regularly replaced with swimming and other sports to give the muscles different workouts.
1 p.m. Protein snack, banana, buttermilk, cottage cheese, cream cheese – something like that.
Around 2–3 p.m. Light snack.
4 p.m. Lunch: cooked vegetables and fish or meat, plenty of both.
6 p.m. Power snack before second training session.
7 p.m. Second training session, 30 minutes warm-up and stretching, 60 minutes sparring, strength endurance, speed training, etc., often 30 minutes of strength exercises at the end, 15 minutes loosening up, stretches, cool-down.
9 p.m. Dinner: Sandwiches with wholewheat bread, thin slices of meat or fish, vegetables etc.
Throughout the day: lots of fruit and plenty of water (approx. five litres on average).
Training: six days out of seven.
Have you ever heard of ice sledge hockey? It’s one of the top sports for people with physical limitations. You need strength, endurance, skill and speed. The rules of the game, the playing field and kit are the same as with ice hockey. The only difference is instead of skates, the players use sledges.
You can start playing at the age of twelve. In sledge ice hockey you can take part if you’re unable to play regular hockey, e.g. you have leg amputations, muscle weakness, paralysis or leg braces. It’s a paralympic sport. But there’s no slacking for these young athletes. For example, here’s a quote from the German sledge ice hockey team: “Above-average training and team work can pave your way to the national team and open up the possibility to participate in international matches and for nomination to the Paralympics.”
8. On Excessive Exercising
The 10,000-hour rule says that anyone concentrating on one thing for 10,000 hours will become good enough to be world class in their category. So everyone has the potential to be a child prodigy. In theory, this applies in the sporting world, too. Psychologists Anders Ericsson, Ralf Krampe and Clemens Tesch-Römer first came up with the idea in 1993. They became quite well known in 2008 thanks to US author Malcolm Gladwell and his bestseller Outliers, which asked the question, nature or nurture? Even if it seems to make sense that practice makes perfect, and there are plenty of examples of it, in Argentina in 2007 there was an interesting study carried out on chess players showing that this theory isn’t always true. One of the players got to master level after just 3,000 hours of practice while another needed 23,000. And a third didn’t make it at all. Not even after 25,000 hours of practice. So is it all about nature?
9. The Drop-out
Mario is 13 and thought by many to be the best player of his age at the club. He’s fast, technically skilled, has a head for the game, etc., and the potential to go far. Mario trains three to four times a week plus one or two matches. And he wants to stop. Too much ‘no’, not enough ‘yes’. Too much tactical training, not enough fun. He has a few months of being coerced to go to training. Then he stops, probably for ever. This is the ‘drop-out’ phenomenon. Some sports psychologists say: Coaching children and young people can help with their self-confidence and coping with failure. This can prevent them from leaving the sport too early. Others say: The problem lies not just with the children, but the whole club system which, instead of encouraging them to have fun and teach a bit of self-discipline, it’s all about the exercising. Maybe the system needs a bit of coaching?
10. Sumo Catalogue
1. At 15, Sumo wrestlers enter a Sumo stable which is like entering a monastery. They live here and wrestle by rules inspired by the ascetic spirit of the Samurai. So is Sumo not a real sport? More like a cult or religion?
2. The first years of Sumo life are tough for the youngsters, almost unbearable. Young Sumo wrestlers start out as servants to the Sumo Grand Master, running errands, cleaning toilets and not getting enough sleep. Coping with hardship is seen as character-building.
3. There is no sport on earth which sees more beginners quit. The main reason is that they’re demoralised.
4. This is what happens in Sumo: two heavy-set boys (or later, men) stand in a clay-based ring. The outer boundary of the ring is formed by a rope sunken into the clay. Anyone who touches the rope, so anyone who leaves the ring first, or touches the ground with anything other than the soles of the feet, loses. To win you can push, shove, heave, hit the other person on the arms, apply tricky throwing techniques – basically everything except hair pulling, eye-gouging and kicking soft parts.
5. Sumo is about one thing only (literally): stand on your feet.
6. Sumo is the shortest contact sport in the world, with one fight lasting just 15 seconds on average.
7. Sumo wrestlers, especially the very young ones, have to eat a lot. A typical Sumo calorie bomb is called a chankonabe, a stew made of fish, vegetables, meat, soy curd and rice, made slightly more palatable with beer and rice wine.
8. Sumo wrestlers have to sleep a lot, and always on their stomachs to de-stress the heart and breathing. Sleeping is part of their training routine. Only through extended rest periods can the gigantic meals be converted into fighting weight.
9. The hair is very important. Daily hair care – washing, oils, tying up – there’s always a specialist in the stable. Even more important, however, is the only piece of clothing that Sumo wrestlers wear; the several metres long mawashi. You can’t put that on on your own.
10. When they get large, heavy and hard to beat, Sumo wrestlers become yokozunas. That’s the highest title you can get in Sumo, along the lines of Grand Master. Or demi-god.
11. Cauliflower Ear
The cauliflower is a special vegetable, which fuses a large, dense flower head into a white fleshy mass. If young athletes get boxed too hard on the ears, if their ears are bashed, badly pressed, bruised, or bent, they can get deformed. This can lead to permanent disfigurements that remind us of the special cabbage in its knobbly, misshapen structure. That’s why we call it the cauliflower ear, which –
medically speaking – is caused by bruising in the ear when the cartilage dies off due to its supply of nutrients failing. Particularly at risk of this phenomenon are young people who practise contact sports such as judo, wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), rugby, boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA).
Bruising of the ear is usually painless but unsightly. Later, it can lead to hearing loss. So a plea to all you
young contact athletes: Always wear ear shields to avoid cauliflower ears. If it’s too late for that already, there’s only one aesthetic cure: grow long hair to cover it up.
12. Game of Life
Let’s look at sport from an educational, social, political, personal, aesthetic and economical point of view.
EDUCATION: Physical activity is an area of development in which young people can find their own identity and self-esteem.
PSYCHOLOGY: Sport is mental health.
BIOLOGY: We need regular physical exercise (like swimming, ice skating, sumo-wrestling, hurling) to maintain our strength and productivity. Some go as far to say that we can compensate for or cure social ills such as “lack of exercise” only through sport.
POLITICS: Sport brings people and communities together, it transcends political boundaries and helps to break down prejudices. At least that’s what the aristocratic diplomatic inventor of the modern Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin, thought.
SOCIETY: Even as a child, sport teaches you important values, customs and rituals. Taking part. Winning. Losing. Fair play. Foul play. Celebrating. Loss.
RELIGION: There’s definitely something divine about sport, isn’t there?
ECONOMICS: Sport is an important factor in the global economy, with enormous sums of money changing hands. Just think of professional sport and its global events, television rights, sponsorship logos, multi-million pound transfers, kit sales and advertising contracts.
ART: Sport is a physical art of human motion in which humans evolve and grow. It captivates us with beautiful displays of the anatomy in its most diverse shapes and abilities. With grace and elegance, strength and rhythm, strategic skills and technical perfection, beautiful moves and complex shapes, with comedies and tragedies.
13. The Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis
The frustration-aggression hypothesis applies to all games and types of sport, with the idea that the experience of frustration increases the likelihood of aggressive behaviour. It assumes that acts of aggression can follow frustration. Can, not will. In other words, an aggressive or physical act can follow a disappointment. The level of the aggression is usually proportional to the degree of frustration. These increase the higher the level of anticipated happiness was. Back in 1941, Roger Barker, Tamara Dembo and Kurt Lewin conducted an experiment which is still to this day regarded as evidence for the thesis: Two groups of children are led into a room of full of attractive toys. One group (the control group) is allowed to play straight away, the other group (the experimental group) is held back from the toys by a metal gate. These children can see the toys but are only allowed to play with them after a long, frustrating wait. When the gate is removed, the aggression starts. Many children in the experimental group destroy the toys, throw them against the wall and
trample on them.
14. La Masia
FC Barcelona (or Barça for short) runs several youth camps around the world. La Masia in Barcelona is the largest and most famous. It develops young footballers athletically and intellectually to a new level. The youth work they do at La Masia is considered to be excellent and is totally focused on the now legendary Barça game culture, with intense training on short passes, working
with the ball, space awareness, fast, precision playing with minimal space. However, there is hardly any physical training. Johan Cruyff, the Dutch founder of the Barça style, describes the body and mind training at the Club’s Academy like this, “We don’t care how strong a lad is or how far he can run. We just want to know what he can do with the ball. Barça teaches you not only to be strong but to be smart.” Numerous talents from La Masia have gone through the youth teams and B team of FC Barcelona, right up to becoming international stars, including bigger boys like Andrés Iniesta and Lionel Messi.
A plea for a different kind of school sport. It’s called the “body experience”.
In many Western European countries, PE is nothing short of a disaster, if it even exists at all. It’s time for a new approach, like the interesting theory of ‚physical experience’, which wants to bring the body and all its complexities back into physical education. It’s about the five dimensions of physicality or body concept: the tool body, the appearance body, the senses body, the icon body and the relationship body.
The tool body is the incarnation of will and is about the chance to achieve something. If someone in PE discovers a talent and passion for basketball, then takes up the sport with a basketball club, this comes under the dimension of the tool body.
The appearance body is a person’s look and appearance. In this dimension, PE can teach that a child’s appearance and stature do not necessarily say anything about his or her athleticism. Different body shapes can be useful for different sports. Students should learn that even heavierbuilt or skinny children, just like those with handicaps, have talents and are good at some things.
The senses body is the incarnation of the sense of self. The focus here is ‘how I feel when I do certain things’. In this dimension pupils learn to give listen to themselves and their bodies. They might find, for example, that they can run even further despite a stitch, just as they can learn to let someone else have a turn if they really can’t go on.
The icon body dimension gives pupils the chance to use the body as an independent organ of expression. For example, they learn to communicate in body language during the game, to intimidate others with their body posture, or demonstrate that they want the ball.
The relationship body stands for empathy. In other words, the body is not just for your own feelings and sense of being, but also for those around you. In this dimension you learn to treat players with respect – even if they look different or have different or less pronounced capabilities in a certain area or sport.
Body experiences mainly help pupils as well as teachers to be tolerant and open to others. At least that’s the theory.
Günter Bittner: Erscheinungsleib, Werkzeugleib, Sinnenleib. Zur Ästhetik kindlichen Leiberlebens; Jürgen Funke-Wieneke: Bewegungs- und Sportpädagogik. Baltmannsweiler: Schneider Hohengehren, 2010; Hans Ullrich Gumbrecht: Lob des Sports. Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2016; Jonathan Franzen: Die Unruhezone. Reinbek: Rowohlt, 2011; Frank Brady: Bobby Fischer, Profile of a Prodigy. Mineola: Dover Publications, 2011; Malcolm Gladwell: Outliers, The Story of Success, London: Penguin, 2009; Deutscher Rollstuhl-Sportverband e.V.; Geo Magazin; sledgeeishockey.de; dbs-npc.de; ze.tt; spektrum.de; wikipedia.com; sportunterricht.de; dwds.de; vice.com; fcbarcelona.com; theguardian.com; juicemagazine.com; IeSF (International e-Sports Federation)