In the wake of the tragic deaths of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others this past week, many people have been sharing what Kobe meant to them. I would not necessarily consider myself a big basketball fan, but how could I not be a Kobe fan? His reach extended far beyond the court. I knew I wanted to write something to express how I feel and how I have been processing these losses, and I have been agonizing over what that might be for days. Nothing I, or most other people could write could do justice to Kobe’s legacy or the impact his daughter was already beginning to make on the sports world. Although I've put a lot of time and effort into drafting multiple other write-ups, everything I thought of just did not seem good enough.
I love hockey. From the time I was about eight or so, I would occasionally watch games with my dad (if they were before my bedtime). I was born into a Habs-loving family in the center of a Maple Leaf-centric city, so when I was given my first piece of Canadiens merchandise, I quickly understood the taboo of it, but still wore it proudly, claiming I was my elementary school’s biggest Habs fan. My favourite player was (and still is) P.K. Subban, so I was notably devastated when he was traded from my favourite team, and that his "bromance" with Carey Price was being censored. Among my friends, who are largely not hockey fans, I’m something of an expert on the game. How could I not be? I can name more than five players in the NHL, I understand the rules, and I actively cheer for not one, but two teams (the second being the Nashville Predators, naturally). But not that I would ever admit this to another fan, I’m a poser. I really don’t know that much about hockey, aside from the league’s biggest moments, and I don’t follow it religiously, save for a few key players on the most popular teams. My hockey knowledge is conversational, but has absolutely no depth. This has led me to develop a feeling of inadequacy when it comes to discussing Canada’s game with literally any hockey fan outside of my small gaggle of hockey-ignorant friends. Why is it that every NHL fan can spit stats or discuss plays from across that league for the last 10 years at the drop of a hat? And I’m left to stumble my way through playoff bracket conversations.
In recent years, organized youth sports participation has been normalized in western society and registration numbers have since peaked. The rise of organized sports has also triggered the rise of elite sports for children. Thousands of children per year join high-performance training programs and teams in an effort to become the best possible athlete and, in many cases, advance to the professional level. Whether these “elite youth sports” do more harm than good for the children playing them is debated by professionals, parents, coaches, and athletes. Having the opportunity to participate in high-performance sports as a child is a unique experience that holds the potential to also be very positive. However, over-involved adults, year-round sport specialization, financial commitments, a lack of freedom, and losing focus of why they are playing are all reasons why young children quit elite sports. In this sense, evidence would suggest that “elite” and “high-performance” sports are more detrimental than beneficial to today’s youth.