So You Want To Be An Olympian? – The Real Lives of Kid Athletes

Chances are if you’ve sat down to watch even a few minutes of the Olympics, you’ve seen the “inspiring” ads. You know the ones.  A little kid is shown falling down on their skies or slipping along the ice in fake home-video quality scenes. 20 seconds later a montage fills the screen with clips of this clumsy youth growing into an Olympic athlete and standing on a podium. But we all know that it isn’t that easy. Kids in the GFS in Middle School tell the truth about what it’s really like being a sport-loving-and-pursuing kid in 2018.

The first student I interviewed was Marissa Shaffer in Eighth Grade. She is a Rhythmic Gymnast.

Do you want to be a professional athlete? Why or why not?       Probably not, but I do enjoy doing sports now.

How do you live against stereotypes in sports?                                                 I do rhythmic gymnastics, a sport that isn’t super popular or well known, so I often feel like people stereotype gymnastics as one category, when really, there are 5 very different types of gymnastics.

What are hardships you face being a kid really into sports?                   It’s tough to balance school and sports, especially when I have to miss school for a competition, or miss practice to do homework. Another thing is that you don’t have a lot of free time. I can’t say how many times I’ve had to turn down an invitation because I have had sports practice.

What would you say to others who want to be professional athletes?                                                                                                                                    I support it. I think it’s great that people want to pursue a sport that they feel passionate about. However, I disagree with the choice to drop out of school to be an athlete. I think that at some point, you may not be able to do the sport anymore, and it can be hard to get a job without an education.

The second student I interviewed was Martina Kiewek in Eighth Grade as well. She plays basketball.

Do you want to be a professional athlete? Why or why not?                     I would want to become a professional sports athlete just because I love playing. There really isn’t anything else in it for athletes, especially women. Originally I wanted to do something else good with it, like take my “influence” and use it to change somethings for the better. That was until I realized that there is really little influence you get from going professional WNBA, not only do you have to outcompete the other players, you have to become significantly better than all (both gender) athletes in your sport, if not in sports in general to become noticed and therefore have influence.

What would your parents think/how do other people react?              My parents would support whatever I want to do, and people have different reactions. A lot of people don’t think it is a good choice precisely because it is very hard to make a living if you don’t become better than most other players. Again, most of your success and ability to make a living relies on if you can become a player that is noticed.

What are hardships you face being a kid really into sports?                   As a kid, still am a kid, It is hard to keep a balanced life of academic, sport, and social activities. I am very invested in a lot of hobbies and classes, so I am behind when it comes to my skill level in the game. I know that if I truly want to go professional, I am going to have to start investing A LOT more time. I always loved the idea of playing D1 basketball, [in college] but people say that it is almost impossible to be great in D1 and also keep a high standard of academics.

When did you realize you wanted to be a professional athlete?             I have always loved basketball, and have kept the prospect of being a professional athlete in mind for a possible career. My thoughts on going professional have swayed a lot through the years, and I have still not decided. I do know that I want to keep my options open, which means spending more time practicing.

What would you say to others who want to be professional athletes?                                                                                                                                   To others who want to go professional, I would say “good luck”.

Both Marissa and Martina bring up great points and give us an inside view of what being into sports as a kid is really like. There are multiple pros and cons, but ultimately everyone’s story and experience is different, and everyone has their own way to make their sports dreams, whatever level they may be, a reality, with hard work and dedication.


Photo by Bernie Mattson, Grace Raufer, Martina Kiewek (featured).

Special thanks to Marissa Shaffer and Martina Kiewek for interviewing.

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