August 17, 2016
By Gilbert VandenHeuvel
Many of us are watching the Olympics these days.
It’s strange how the Olympics can make us fans of the strangest sports. When else do we watch anyone on the uneven bars, trampoline or any rowing/kayak events?
We watch this HUGE production and are amazed by the abilities of the human body. How does one make a T while hanging from rings or stay above water while trying to throw a ball into the opponent’s net, all the while being pulled down by your opponents?
Our Canadian athletes have done a great job, especially our women. Why are we surprised, there are a lots of strong women among us. A lot of these strong women come from rural background. The down to earth, hard work the country life gives us will build character of mind and body. Here are a couple professionals with their findings:
Dale Henwood is president and CEO at the Canadian Sport Institute in Calgary. He says there are some main factors that contribute to excellence in an athlete which can sometimes translate to regional excellence. Among them is support, personal drive and access, but also a level of discomfort. He says in some cases, privilege can work against motivation.
“In a Canadian context, we have affluence, and that’s sometime more difficult to work with in sports,” says Henwood. “Here we’re comfortable. I’ve been to places around the globe with world class facilities and no athletes in them, and other places with not-so-great facilities, but they’re in full use.”
While athletes from smaller towns are often seen as underdogs, Henwood thinks they may actually have an advantage. Less competition for practice time on the ice and more access to a coach might help explain why many world class athletes and Olympians emerge from small towns.
A co-author of the studies, Queen’s University’s Jean Côté, attributed the small-town over representation to a number of factors. These include the accessibility of sports role models in little towns, the cultural values placed on sport (think “Hoosiers”), and even the “big fish little pond” effect, which can be a positive reinforcer for young athletes. Dr. Côté also argues that, despite the prevailing notion that kids need to specialize early and immerse themselves in 10,000 hours of repetitive training, small-town athletes excel precisely because they spend more time playing outside of schools and leagues.
“In bigger cities, youth sport is over-organized and over-coached,” Dr. Côté says.
Dr. Côté admits that potential superstars eventually have to move to get superior training, but specialization before age 13 or 14 is more likely to produce a tired-out teen than a Tiger Woods, he says.
Then there’s what might be called the boredom factor. As Jason Campbell once said, in Taylorsville, “you have nothing else to do but sit outside and throw a football at trees.
Examples of these strong small town / rural athletes are:
Rosie MacLennan’s home town is King City, ON (population 4,902) gold in trampoline. Click HERE for her details.
Brianne Theisen-Eaton’s home town is Humbolt, Saskatchewan (population 5,678) bronze in heptathlon which is a combination of 7 track and fiend events. Click HERE for her details.
Hilary Caldwell’s home town is White Rock, BC (population 19,339) bronze in swimming. Click HERE for her details.