By Ken Reed
The vast majority of Americans stop participating in competitive sports after high school, college at the latest. That’s not the case in other countries, where club sports organizations keep citizens active from 8 to 80.
It’s sad that American athletes throw in the towel so early on their sports careers. Moreover, it has negative ramifications for their physical and psychological health.
Joseph Baker is a professor of exercise science. For years, he wondered why some 70-year-olds could compete in triathlons while some got winded walking up a flight of stairs. He wanted to know if declining physically was simply the result of getting old or a result of becoming sedentary.
Baker studied senior team handball players and concluded:
“Their motor skills may have declined a bit, and they might be a little slower. But if they’ve kept up the practice, they can be as good as any elite athlete.”
He has done many other studies with masters athletes, those that are older than 35, with classifications every five years. He says the results of these studies indicate that even moderate physical activity leads to optimal physiological, psychological and social health.
Those are important findings because the common cultural stereotype in the United States is that people over 35 are “too old” to continue competing in athletics.
Baker and his colleagues are exploring the possibility that the slower movements of aging athletes might be attributed as much or more to practicing less as one gets older than it is aging.
A study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise of masters athletes at the Hawaii Ironman triathlon (an event consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a full marathon) found that the top male finishers ages 60 through 64 were only a few minutes slower than the top 30-through 34-year-olds. The study concluded that the older athletes are “a fascinating model of exceptionally successful aging.”
“There was a time when many people thought you simply couldn’t be a serious athlete after your early 30s,” says Michael Joyner, M.D., a professor of physiology at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. “That’s obviously not the case.”
So, what’s the only logical takeaway? Adults, whatever their age, need to get out there and play ball!
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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