Unstructured play leads to more creative athletes, suggests prof

There’s no research to suggest that young kids who love their sport will risk burnout, says Joe Baker, a professor of kinesiology and sports health in York’s Faculty of Health, in a Globe and Mail story Aug. 26 about the impact of year-round sports and the pressure to excel on young athletes. 

But even if a child is mentally and physically prepared for a hectic sports schedule, new research suggests throwing a kid’s sports eggs in one basket can make him a worse, not better, player.  

Baker has been collecting data on athletes considered the best of the best. "Some of the data we have shows they spent a lot more time playing at their sport in an unorganized way," he says. Fewer rules and drills appears to promote a flexibility in the way kids think about problems on the court or rink.  

Student hopes karate will one day take centre stage at the Olympic Games

“I want to go to the Olympics. They are the ultimate goal,” says 27-year-old Nassim Varasteh, Canada’s most accomplished competitor in sport karate, who has been studying psychology at York, reported the National Post Aug. 26. The problem is the Olympics do not want Varasteh. Or, rather, they do not want karate. Not yet.  

When the International Olympic Committee decided in July 2005 to exclude baseball and softball from the Games in London in 2012, a window opened for two new sports to be accepted. Karate, along with squash, made the short list. But neither received the required majority of votes needed for acceptance. The IOC plans on reviewing the Games program again in October 2009.  

Even if karate gets in, those Games are eight years away. And Varasteh, who would be 35 years old then, does not know if she will still be competing. “My mom says, ‘You can’t stop, you have to wait,’” said Varasteh, who was born in Iran but came to Canada when she was five years old. “I’m like, ‘I’m not so sure.’” 

In November about 1,200 athletes are expected to descend upon Tokyo for the 19th World Karate Championships. Varasteh, who has never been to Japan, is excited about the worlds. But make no mistake, competing in the Olympics are what she has dreamed about ever since she began practising karate at the age of six. “That’s why I started competing,” said Varasteh. 

Proposed arts and sports facilities will inspire youth

I admire Mayor John Rodriguez’s vision for the arts, wrote Ashley Burton (BFA ’07, BEd ’08), Arts North artistic director, in a letter published in the Sudbury Star Aug. 26.

As a young artist and Ontario board certified educator who had to leave Northern Ontario to achieve further education and training in the fine arts at York University, I am excited about bringing my knowledge for the arts north.  

I am disheartened to hear that a poll of only 300 people would secure Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci’s premature announcement that he would not support projects that would benefit the artists and athletes in our community, wrote Burton.  

There is little doubt that roads and infrastructure are meaningful concerns, but should that overshadow artistic growth in our community? For far too long we have been exporting our young talented artists and athletes out of Northern Ontario because we do not have the facilities that will allow them to pursue and enrich their training and education. The proposed performing arts centre and sport facility inspires our youth for the possibility that one day there will be a place for them here in the north, at home. 

On air

  • Frances Flint, a sports psychology professor at York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science who has worked with Canadian Olympic athletes, discussed their performance in Beijing, on “The Morning News” on Calgary’s CHQR-AM Aug. 25.
  • Peter Hogg, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about regulating green house gas emissions, on “The Rutherford Show” on CHQR-AM Aug. 25.  
  • Barbara Rahder, dean of York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, discussed a change in regulations at York that allows graduate students to defend their theses in French or a North American aboriginal language, on “Trail’s End” on CBC Radio affiliate CFYK-AM in Yellowknife.