Compulsories and Competencies
Ok, so most people don't realize I have a soft spot for artistic skating. My first structured team sport experience was as an artistic roller skater. From 3rd through 5th grade, I competed for the Kingsway Royals, in figures, dance and freestyle. There were kids as young as 6, up through high school age. We all had a USARA membership card. We had royal blue team uniforms for certain events and then we had our individual dresses (sequins anyone?) for solo competitions. It was the only time I would voluntarily wear a dress. My sister and I spent hours and hours at Kingsway Skateland, in team practice, individual lessons ($6 a session) and open skating. Just don't ask me about the time she broke all of my skating trophies!
The programming was very structured and we received pins and patches for achieving competency in various compulsory figures, solo dances and free skating moves (Mapes, salchow, axle). I had a warm up jacket with all my patches and pins. I loved it. Especially when I got to do a compulsory waltz or tango with one of the older guys. It was like being a grown up--just like Torvill and Dean; but we had to work at it and earn the right to move to the next level of competition and competency. It was all very dignified. If you've never seen compulsory figures in roller skating, check out figure 7B in the video below:
Now where am I going with this? Well unless they are gymnasts, artistic skaters or maybe a martial arts student, many young athletes today don't have the opportunity to go through structured progressions (and competitive groupings) of fundamental movements that require basic strength, balance, coordination and poise. Stand on one leg, spin, inside edge, outside edge, go backwards, go sideways, coordinate your movement with someone else and don't get your legs tangled up with them--and keep your head up, smiling! They also don't have to learn to follow protocol, rules and do their thing--all alone--in front of judges. I had the opportunity to do these things from age 9-12. And I think it was a very important part of my general athletic development, along with ballet, flag football, baton twirling, volleyball, basketball and softball.
For so many kids, it is just run and chase a ball, try to look cool and bad-ass like the guys on ESPN; and the kids who happen to be the tallest and fasted at whatever age, usually dominate. The emphasis is on winning NOW, not on progressing through physical competencies and attaining mastery of skill and technique in order to be successful as a senior level athlete. I guess I am old school in finding satisfaction and joy in mastery of the basics, and of passing on the appreciation of patience and purposeful practice to our young athletes. In my opinion, our young athletes are in great need for good leadership from adult coaches and governing bodies. We have to take the time to invest in building our physical and psychological foundations and infrastructure.
I know USA Weightlifting used to have patches for meeting certain performance requirements in meets. They don't anymore. I would imagine USA Gymnastics has something. Does anyone know which NGBs still have structured performance testing and rewards for young athletes?