The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 15, 1999


Competitive Sports at an Early Age?

After reading Ray Offenheiser's thoughtful Guest Commentary, "Whither Civility," in last week's Mosquito, I happened to turn to the back page of the newspaper where an announcement took my breath away: tryouts for traveling soccer teams for third and fourth graders, sponsored by the Concord-Carlisle Soccer Club. Wasn't this one of the issues of civility that Offenheiser had alluded to when he mentioned the July 12 Time Magazine article on the impact of sports mania on kids and the damage it can do to the social fabric of our society?

Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but I find it distressing to commit eight- and nine-year-olds to two practice sessions a week, with games played on Saturdays and every other game played away "which could involve 40 minutes traveling." What will this do to the quality time that parents say they want to spend with their children? Driving a carload of children back and forth to practice and soccer games certainly does not add up to quality time in my book.

What happens to the school team when the better players have gone off to play in the travelling league? Is this a sign of good sportsmanship, leaving your classmates behind? Most eight- and nine-year olds are at an age when they don't need the stress of a highly organized sports team.

Anyone interested in the business of being pushed into a sport at too early an age, should read the New York Times Magazine section this past weekend, where former Olympic star gymnast Dominique Moceanu talks about getting a legal separation from her parents when she turned seventeen. And does anyone remember what happened to child tennis star Jennifer Capriati? She developed a drug problem. These, of course, are extreme examples of what can happen to kids when they get pushed into sports at too early an age.

I haven't had a chance to read James Gleick's new book Faster, but I did hear him interviewed on Christopher Lydon's program on WBUR several weeks ago. What he has written about is a society, our society, where everything is moving at a faster and faster pace. He also examines the impact it has on the people involved.

We should think twice before committing our kids to highly organized competitive sports at an early age. Often these blocks of time could be better spent in unorganized pursuits. Perhaps just simple acts of kindness to family, friends and neighbors would be a good place to start. It's time to get our young children out of the rat race. There's a lot more to learn at home, just sitting around the dinner table.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

Recent articles in the Mosquito mentioned that the bike/pedestrian safety committee (b/p/s/c) has updated the ConsCom on the "proposed plan to build footpaths near major roads in town" and that the b/p/s/c requested modification of the rules "to force the planning board to require developers to build bike/footpaths or place 75 percent of the sidewalk costs into the Carlisle Pathway Trust." I must have missed a significant development. Where and when did we agree as a town that this is what we want? What is this committee empowered to do? What's the plan?

A bike/foot/woods committee was appointed in 1973 after approval of a town warrant article. That committee had specific mandates: study the issues, develop a master plan, estimate costs, and report to the selectmen. (Their plan was never adopted.) The current b/p/s/c was appointed by the selectmen, but I have yet to determine when, why, or to do what. It also appears that some Carlisle citizens are supporting the concept of "paths" without knowing the specifics. As I understand it, the b/p/s/c wants to construct a path/sidewalk along all five major roads in town (and in new developments?). Do the majority of townspeople understand and support this? Some people think the only sidewalk that's needed is one connecting buildings in the center, while others have different and conflicting visions of paths all over town, sidewalks to bike on, paths prohibited to bikers, and so on. There are also different versions of how the paths will be made of natural material (i.e., expensive) to look better or asphalt (cheaper) to get more miles completed. It's clear that this idea means different things to different people and we still don't know what it does mean.

Road safety should concern us. An ever increasing volume of trucks, construction equipment, cars and bicycles use (and speed on) Carlisle's roads. It's dangerous and annoying, especially for those of us who live on the busier roads. But not for a moment do I think that sidewalks will address this issue. Whether or not it would be "safe" for kids to bike or walk along major roads on a sidewalk is a different matter. Why did several people advise Marilyn Harte not to let her young relative walk home from camp this summer? (See Mosquito editorial, August 13.) We may think we're a small town, but our community is not immune from the problems affecting society in general.

Let's not take it for granted that everyone wants paths/sidewalks. I've certainly found people who are not in favor of them. I have many concerns. Primarily, I feel that sidewalks will detrimentally alter one of Carlisle's fundamental assets its rural character. It's hard to imagine any path/sidewalk where there are old stone walls, large trees, or steep banks. We are blessed with wonderful trails in beautiful settings. Why do we need to destroy our country roads? I haven't seen a path/sidewalk anywhere that looks like anything but a sidewalk. (The asphalt strip in the center is a good example.) I am truly saddened by the thought of our country roads being replaced bysuburbia. You can find sidewalks in many places, but you can't find roads like ours much anymore. I urge everyone to take a more thoughtful look at what we're doing before any group, however enthusiastic, hard-working, or well-intentioned, plunges on.

"There is a place where the sidewalk ends/ And before the street begins,.Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black /And the dark street winds and bends. For the children, they mark, and the children, they know/The place where the sidewalk ends." (Shel Silverstein) Carlisle is a place where the sidewalk ends. Maybe.


1999 The Carlisle Mosquito