This is a topic very near and dear to my heart and my wallet. Those who know me personally have long grown tired of conversations that involve sports.. because it will only be moments into any conversation before the topic turns to money.
As a county that embraces fitness and good health for our children, our government spends millions on marketing same. Eat well, exercise, participate, and be active. I suspect that we as Canadians do a pretty good job at that with easy access to sports in elementary school levels. Although not free, generally within the financial means to have your child active in Hockey, Soccer, Football, Basketball and so on. Kudos to Canada for the wide variety of sports available and within reach at that age.
But something terrible happens with so many of our children in sports.. something almost too horrible to mention. Some of them actually become pretty good at their sport, some show real talent and begin to excel. This is when the organizers, government, community avert their eyes and hide.
The financial bleeding seems to begin as a small paper cut, before you know it, full fledged career ending arterial bleed.
To step back, and in the simplest of terms, it is a horrible thing to see that most possibly the best, most elite and skilled athletes are halted in their athletic careers before they even enter into their teens. A time that they should be accelerating to the top of their field, they are relegated to watch on the sidelines, and return to their couches and play Xbox.
In order to take the leap from community based athletics, to the national field of play, regardless of the sport, tens of thousands of dollars are required annually. Travel, trainers, equipment, competitions no longer can be covered by a sub one hundred dollar bill sports registration fees.
So in Canada, sadly, the top qualification to represent our country is not the talent or commitment of our athletes, it is the bank balance that they have access to. How many Olympic podiums could be populated by athletes that never had the chance to “get out of the gate”. How many top potential athletes are playing Xbox at home instead of setting world records for no other reason than their family could not finance thousands of dollars needed.
I know, and expect notes responding to this that there are exceptions.. athletes from poor background rising to the top, and well heeled athletes reaching the top... I do not dispute that in any way. But for the handful of exceptions to this financial brick wall, I expect that there of thousands of our athletes that never make it beyond city leagues that their natural ability should have them as a household name as one of Canada’s best.
As I write this, I think of a particular athlete (NO, not my son). Who showed incredible promise, natural talent that made him stand out heads and tails above his competition. I true pleasure to watch compete. And at the age of 13-14, when the cost begin that slow climb to becoming out of reach. His parents were unable to meet the financial requirements. And he was forced to quit the sport. A true waste.
Surely our government offers assistance for the less than financially able athletes.. Hypocritically they do not. They pitter away millions and millions of dollars to appear committed to our national sports. Unfortunately, none of that filters down to where it will be truly effective.. The athletes. Advertisements, committees, bureaucrats, ridicules wasted dollars spent trying to convince the world we have the best athletes would not be required, if we supported our athletes, and let them stand on the podiums... let this speak for our programs. It would get the world’s attention, quicker than bureaucratic bull sh*t.
NOTE: As I was about to post this, I felt it necessary to state clearly that there are a number of athletes that do come from financially comfortable households that deserve every right to be at the top because they have the natural talent, work ethic and commitment to the sport. This blog is not to question this whatsoever. Simply to voice my thoughts on those that do not have the ability to meet the financial reaquirements.