|Heather sometimes cries when people pass her|
I can say that the attention the two youngsters get from their dad probably plays a huge part in their concept of "fun" at this point. Somehow, I don't think most kids would find getting bloody knees, shedding tears and experiencing frustration all that enjoyable. Then again, all kids fall and scrape their knees when playing. Maybe this isn't that much different. What worries me most in the article is the way the father reacted to a sixth place finish by one of his daughters. Sorry, but when someone tells a stranger that he was very hard on the older girl for only finishing sixth, I'm going to have to predict problems down the road. What's wrong with sixth? She's 12 for fuck's sake. In my previous post, I mention this is exactly the mentality that puts a long running career at risk. I worry that these girls will follow the same path as most of the kids in the Garritson family, racing too much at too young an age and burning out early.
There are definitely two sides in the "too young to run those kinds of races" debate. I don't see a whole lot wrong with allowing kids to run some long distances if they are truly internally driven to do so. I would suggest that this be done with a great deal of guidance and some restrictions though. I have more of a problem with placing youngsters in big competitions with a focus on performance. A child should, instead, be focused on the basics of the sport. Moving away from quantifying and timing events should be a priority at such young ages. The problem in this case with these gifted runners is that the father has fallen into the trap of lapping up short-term success over the well being of his kids down the road. He doesn't understand how pushing kids too much at this vulnerable age can have long lasting effects. Though it's risky, the physical body might be able to handle the training. However, as I pointed out in one post already, mileage and high intensity training has to be within the capabilities of what the young athlete can handle not just physically but emotionally and mentally as well. Renowned running coach Bobby McGee states, “frequency teaches skill and long periods teach fitness, but how these are introduced depends on the mental and emotional maturity of an individual.”
We would all love to see these two young competitors head into long-term and successful running careers. What I would like to see more is the girls not missing out on so much of their young lives in order to compete. I made the mistake of not socializing and avoided staying out with friends, all so I could focus on running. We all know where that eventually got me. They shouldn't have to sacrifice so much at 10 and 12 years old in order to run. This is a sport where maturity can only help them. Let's hope that they don't grow up to regret all that they are sacrificing. Let's hope too that dad gets a clue and allows them to skip a few weekends of racing, so that these kids can go to a sleepover now and then. Maybe teaching them balance now should be more the priority than teaching them to toss all their eggs into one basket.
I thought this blog post on the topic was very well done: Fit and Feminist- The dark side of girls who run long distances