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17:1; 4, 2002

Jerry Grey

Although Harmon Brown and Herbert Elliott raise some very interesting points in relation to the IAAF and
Youth Athletics (NSA 16:3, 2001), they probably have avoided the perceived real reason for
the establishment of a World Youth Championships. It is well known that the World
Youth Championships were established as a
part of the marketing and sponsorship strategy of the IAAF, and not as President Nebiolo
stated .. because we must fight harder than
ever, to gain the attention of young people
today. The philosophy behind the IAAF having a World Youth Championships is in direct
contradiction to its own philosophy in regard
to early specialisation. On both of the CECS
Level I and Level II courses, great effort is
made to emphasise to aspiring coaches, the
need to avoid sport/event specialisation

before the age of 17. Yet the IAAF promotes

event specialisation for the under 18s by
way of a World Championship event. Granted, there are some caveats placed on the
number and type of events that can be contested at the WYCA, but the principle of
encouraging early event specialisation and
training cannot be avoided.
In their article, Brown and Elliott, provide a
wealth of scientific and medical data to support the argument that early specialisation
and pressure to train hard to achieve success
has serious emotional and physical consequences as well as leading to a high attrition
rate. Given this compelling evidence, one has
to question what was the real reason for the
establishment of the WYCA. Was it a case of:
We would prefer to see youngsters compete
on the world athletics stage, despite the fact
that it may cause them long term harm,
rather than seeing them going to football, or
swimming, or tennis, or whatever other sport
tries to recruit and retain them?
Unfortunately we are going to have to wait
a number of years before we know whether
those athletes who have competed at a
WYCA have been retained in the sport. I will
be surprised if more than 10% of all athletes competing at any future World Championships or Olympic Games, had previously
competed at a WYCA.
It is hoped that the IAAF does take note of
Brown and Elliott and establish a Working
Group to study the entire range of Youth
Athletics programming. I do hope however,
that the conclusion reached by the working
group is not one whereby the WYCA was an
unfortunate experiment.
Thomas Whitmore
Great Britain

New Studies in Athletics no. 1/2002

Congratulations to New Studies in

Athletics on reaching its 15 years of
publication. NSA is, without doubt,
the premier publication of any of the International Sports Federations. I know that
many of the other International Federations
envy NSA for its quality of content and production. The complete content list published
in 04-01 will make it an interesting research
tool for the coach and devotee of athletics.
Already noting that certain articles were
published in NSA some years ago has
refreshed my memory. I have now been able
to go back and re-read those articles and
put a different perspective on the subject.
Without this list I would not have recalled
that certain articles had been published. I
therefore have one plea. Do not wait another fifteen years before you publish another
content list. How about every five years?