Monday, May 26, 2014

Pep Talk: "Burnout Versus Ablaze"

“It’s a different world today.”

Amen to that buddy. The short, but profound, statement came from the lips of buddy Joe Mierzwa. Devoted readers of these weekly Pep Talks should know he’s the editor. After I transfer some thoughts from cranium to computer, it’s sent along to the University of Kansas graduate for a review. He challenges me to become a better writer. Joe, thanks.

Anyway, back to the story. The frequent caller to the sports talk show I used to host on Mile High Sports Radio in Denver, was, in muttering, “It’s a different world” talking about girls volleyball.

We were having lunch at The Shack restaurant in Littleton. I love the place. Jack, Ron and crew used to sponsor the radio show. We did plenty of remotes from there. Great spot for food, fun and sports watching. I joked with Ron, “The one thing I miss about retiring from sports talk is not saying, ‘At the Shack, just ask Jack or Ron and your game is on!’” Without missing a beat, the head chef who makes some savory green chili tater tots joked, “If that was the only thing you enjoyed, IT WAS TIME to get out!”

So over lunch we were talking high school/club girls volleyball. My daughter’s, a setter, has been playing for years. It’s a fine-tuned machine. So many girls play high school and club. It’s a year-round sport. Which is good and bad. It does keep the developing girls busy with healthy and productive activity but man, it’s time-consuming and expensive.

One of the long-time waitresses at the cozy spot at Broadway and Mineral that is now celebrating 21 years of serving south Denver, also has a daughter heavily involved in volleyball. When visiting, we always talk about our daughter’s sport.

I’ve watched a lot of volleyball over the years. It’s a great sport. Teamwork so vital. What has surprised me is, it seems, there are many outstanding players who could easily go on to the collegiate level and compete, but they don’t want to.

They’re burned out.

Too much volleyball. There was a young lady who played setter for one of the state’s best teams. Outstanding player. Done. Same for another stellar player from another school. In defense of each, playing big-time collegiate volleyball has become, for the most part, reserved for very tall and athletic young women. One insider shrugged her shoulders one time and told me, “Mark, it’s all about the hitters these days.”


It might be all about the hitters but I think it’s also about the burnout. Times have changed to get back to Joe’s thoughts. In my day, athletes were encouraged to play multiple sports. For me, it was always football, basketball and baseball. There was little “specialization” like we see today.

I don’t think we’re doing the kids any service by encouraging such a narrow path at such a young age. Trust me, the college recruiters can recognize talent and understand if the athlete focused entirely on one sport later on, things will work out.

Why the rush at such at young age? Also, at such a cost? 

It is a different world. The question becomes, is it better? Kids focused on one sport and exposed to it in such a heavy dose are burned out early. That ain’t good. I admire what Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado has going on right now. The coaches there work together and encourage their athletes to play multiple sports. Yay!

Overabundance. Excessive exposure. It can bear fruit. It can bear frustration. It can be sweet. It can be sour. It’s true whether we’re talking about girls’ volleyball, other sports, business, families and other venues not mentioned. 

Finding balance. Rhythm. Mojo. In the flow. Home. Work. Elsewhere.

Easy to discuss, far more difficult to execute successfully, right?

Burnout versus ablaze. Try like heck to avoid the former and embrace the latter a whole lot this week. Who knows, maybe it will unleash a different world for you, me and others.

Good luck!

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