Thursday, January 3, 2013

Exceptionally Talented Kids

Well on New Year's Day I had the pleasure of driving down to London for the West Ham v Norwich game with Dave Jordan. I hadn't seen  Dave since 1976, when we were both 16 and pupils at Earlham High School. Now, the school itself managed to get itself recently ranked among the bottom 1% of UK high schools and was thence demolished (snif) but our footie team in the 70s wuz magic, and we were both in it.

Dave was a midfield dynamo with a cultured and accurate left foot, and later he coached a successful set of village youth teams in Norwich.  Now,  in our days there were very few scouts for the pro clubs at games, but, apparently Dave's Taverham kids team were constantly sniffed out by the sinister agents from Norwich City, who wanted to identify talent for their 'Academy'.  Now, an Academy is the route to stardom, or at least a living wage doing what you love, and a few prodigies can even be signed to million-dollar contracts in their early teens. But after a while the reaction of Dave and his fellow coaches when they saw the scouts arrive was to pull their best players off the field.  Why would they do that?

Well, signing for an Academy means leaving your friends,  the environment you're used to, and becoming the 'property' of the local pro club. Too may times Dave saw enthusiastic, talented kids snatched by the Academy then returned used, hollow shells of what they were. So he wanted to resist the uprooting and hence his reaction when the sharks were spotted.

The answer must be that there should be a middle way, a way for the most talented kids to receive expert coaching from the academies without giving up having fun with their mates, playing for the local teams as well. And the same goes for any walk of life, not just soccer.  Pro soccer clubs are right - the earlier you can get hold of a kid the better, and the same goes for science - but this needs to be done without uprooting kids from what they know.

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