I just finished reading about Derek Boogaard in the New York Times. They have a great 3-part article and multimedia piece on his life. There are many issues in this story, but the one that jumped out at me was the story of the tall kid who reluctantly became a hockey enforcer.
The tall kids. They are pushed early to specialize in certain sports and positions. Assumptions are made about their personality--that they automatically like to and want to physically intimidate people. More often than not, they tend to be more like the stereotype of the gentle giant. Trust me, most of these kids have the same insecurities we all do as young people and the pressure they have upon them to be "large & in charge" in their sport weighs heavily on them.
People gawk. Referees don't give them a break. Coaches are frustrated that their big kids lack confidence and the ability to use their size effectively.
They are referred to as "soft" or "lacking mental toughness" when preventable overuse injuries and pain from unnecessary over-training forces them to sit out. Or they quietly push through the pain to keep up with smaller teammates and put themselves at risk for career-ending injuries because they don't want to appear weak in front of their coaches or parents. The adults in charge don't understand that these tall bodies cannot handle the same volume of pounding that smaller frames easily tolerate in practice.
They are not given the time to become comfortable in their bodies--to become physically competent and develop fundamental movement skills.
They are not given the opportunity and tools to develop all-around fundamental sport-related movements that will allow them to move smoothly & skillfully like their smaller teammates. They are pigeon-holed into standing at the net as the middle blocker or on the low block with their back to the basket.
They are expected and allowed to get by year after year on their height alone.
Who needs to work on the foundations of running, jumping, landing, playing defense? Who needs good body awareness, good postural alignment, good flexibility and appropriate strength? Who needs to be taught how to move with aggressive speed and power? Who needs to be educated about the importance of taking care of your joints now so that you can walk, sit and sleep without spending the majority of your adult years in constant pain and/or addicted to pain medication from the pursuit of elite sport?
These kids do.
Most of all, someone who cares needs to stop and ask these kids if they are having fun and if this is really what they want to be doing with their life and time.
Kind of by accident, I've started to do something about it over the last 4 years with my small stable of giraffes. They have taught me so much. I love working with them and showing their coaches and parents what is possible with patience, time and purposeful work on the basics. I love helping them blossom and find their place in pursuit of elite sport; or figure out that their place is somewhere other than elite sport.
It is my passion and my mission to be the resource for tall athletes, their parents and their coaches in the Midwest and wherever help is needed.