A Little Time Away From Arts & Crafts
It’s been a week where even those of us who don’t typically watch a lot of television find ourselves glued to the screen, in love with the Olympics and the athletes who have dedicated the past four years or more of their tender lives to achieving a seemingly unattainable goal.
It’s a time when we recall past champions and crown new ones, when we learn scoring systems in sports we never intended to serve as spectators, when we marvel over athletic prowess and mental discipline, and when we shed a few tears along with those who must, by the nature of competition, stand to the side and watch the medal ceremony from behind the cameras.
And thanks to those same cameras, it’s now a time when we can also watch the parents in the stands, the coaches along the sidelines and the judges at the scoring tables. Parents who lean and strain with every movement, who know the routines as well as their children, who are sitting on a wallet of maxed-out credit cards, knowing full well that even though their son or daughter has made it to the Olympics, odds of a them needing an agent to negotiate product endorsements with a corporate sponsor are still only about as good as winning the lottery.
There are lessons here to be learned by all of us, even from the comfort of our soft couches. While we marvel at the medal count of Michael Phelps, we cannot forget those eight young athletes who might never have appeared on television had it not been for their coaches — coaches who instructed them, commanded might be a better term, to throw a match, to let a one-ounce birdie drop at their feet, to purposely lose at the Olympics so that they might stand a better chance of making it to the finals through a weaker bracket.
What must they have thought when told to do such a thing?
Children who were taught their entire lives to trust their coaches, young athletes who are now back in China and South Korea, facing their parents, their schoolmates and their accusers. People who will demand to know why these young women did not stand up to their coaches and refuse to throw the match — it happens all the time in the movies, right?
But its not the movies, its real life. It’s the dark side of the Olympics, where coaches stand to make — or lose — as much as the athletes into whom they have invested four years of their lives molding those taunt bodies to perfection.
Eight young athletes who will never be the same, who will rarely wake up another morning of their lives without being reminded that they were kicked out of the Olympics, sent home in disgrace, in shame. Sure, the coaches who whispered in their ears the order to throw the match will be fired, but as adults they have learned the art of rationalization. Their order, they will justify, was influenced by their Olympic committee sitting in the stands behind them or watching from a hotel suite a few blocks away, a committee with an unspoken message, ‘Bring home a medal — or else.’
Badminton – a child’s game with adult consequences.
So, are we about to cancel the Olympics, bar coaches from the arena, or insist on a congressional investigation?
Of course not.
It is a perfect example of how a few bad apples can spoil the reputations of coaches everywhere.
Of young minds being trained not to question authority, but to accept their orders as obediently as a young soldier, to squash that momentary thought of athletic disobedience, to wipe that look of disbelief off their faces and to do as they are told.
High school, college and Olympic athletes will attest as to how the discipline they learned from their coaches propelled them to success as business owners, as parents, as mentors of the next generation.
And while our hearts will soar as we watch the replays of a young girl named Gabby sticking her landing, we cannot let ourselves forget those other eight young women whose lives have also been changed by the Olympics.
Lessons for us all to learn.
Until next Monday,
Make it a great week!