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Oct 28

The Paradox in Sports: What is this ‘Thing’ called Body?

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Coaching and Training Age Group Athletes

I want to relay some vital aspects, which impact the coaching/training of developmental athletes to a greater extent. First, societal values, the way we view the importance of the mind-body connection in sport needs serious reflection. Second, ‘general athleticism’ (referred to as Physical Literacy nowadays) is frequently sacrificed for ‘early specialization’ in North American sports. Third, the current crisis in the fitness level of young children places increasing demands upon teachers/ coaches to include functional fitness as well as motor skills in their programs. Subsequently, coaches should contemplate and decide on the role they are going to assume in this course of action.

North America’s cultural elite suffers from ‘obsessive preoccupation’ with ‘the body- beautiful’ displayed in numerous fashionable magazines. Many people however are uneasy when discussions center on sport and the body (paradox). Athletes should never see themselves as human performance machines, to be ‘chiseled, tuned, piped, and drilled.’ Many a times, athletes outside the so-called aesthetic sports (such as figure skating, gymnastics, diving, etc.) are greatly stifled in their attempt to ‘become in tune’ with the body; their creativity is often ‘suffocated.’ This is actually disturbing because creative thought processes rather than passive operation (doing it because someone said so) promote analytical thinking in the sporting experience.

Elite swimmers are often baffled by body-mind related questions I put forward. Some get very annoyed; some act silly; some call it ‘crazy.’ How are athletes ever going to know, understand, or figure out certain concepts when body awareness is never taught at the developmental levels? On the other hand, how are coaches supposed to teach these concepts when they lack professional education and training?

Well-known ‘gurus’ within our midst have begun to blend together philosophical deliberation and approaches to swimming over the past few years. The attempt is made to provide swimmers in high performance levels with new ‘buzz’ words such as “awesome body in-tune-ness.” What’s wrong with that? Nothing! Except the process needs to reach far beyond; it is one of educating athletes; it is does not happen through ‘osmosis” at the pool site! I strongly believe that we have to be more serious about this subject matter, read more on this topic, and not just jump on the bandwagon to be part of the blind followers! In the end, we do have to start teaching these ‘things’ not just write about them. Maybe the swim community at large would benefit greatly from camps and seminars, which include philosophical inquiry on the ‘body-mind-psyche’ paradigm in sport.’ I have always liked to ‘soar like an eagle’ and always been on the ‘far side’ of swimming. I do agree with Cecil Colwin (1994) that more non-conformists or iconoclasts in the North American swimming world are needed but they are not always easily accepted in the ‘swimming circles!’

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