So I’m on a course this week and yesterday we had a discussion about the Olympics. One of the women in the class gave us a bit of a lecture on how “nice” it was that we all watched the Olympics and cheered on Team Canada and were so proud of “our” athletes. She then went on to ask us if we had any idea how much money and time goes into making those athletes.
It seems her son is a figure skater on his way to the next winter Olympics and it’s pretty much bankrupting the family. Between the ice time, coaches, equipment, competitions and so forth, they are spending all their free time and all the money they don’t need for basic living expenses on this kid’s skating.
Then at the end of the year they get a $75 rebate from the federal government for having their kid in a sport. She seemed pretty bitter about it and thinks the government should be doing more to support kids in sports.
A lot of people nodded and agreed with her.
I asked if the government should also support kids who have musical talent – because that can cost an awful lot too, between lessons and instruments and competitions. And there isn’t even a $75 federal government rebate for having your kids in music lessons.
A lot of people nodded and agreed with me. (The same people, I think.)
The sports woman, though, said that was different because the country and its citizens take ownership of Olympic athletes and professional athletes – hockey players for instance. They represent the country. Besides, she said, we should be doing more, financially, to encourage physical activity in our young people, anyway. It’s important to their health. Music isn’t.
Well, that final point was hard to argue with and it is true that we seem to put an awful lot of stock in our athletes when they’re successful. However, isn’t it just as important for this country to have good musicians or dancers or writers or artists or even scientists?
If the government is going to provide financial support to pay for her kid’s figure skating lessons, shouldn’t they then also pay for someone else’s kid to go through medical school?
Is there a difference?
Is the sports woman right? Should the government be funding promising young athletes?
And if the government doesn’t support children in sports (or music), do kids from families who can’t afford it, ever have a chance to be Olympic athletes or professional hockey players (or concert pianists)?