A new way for America's parent to over-manage their children's lives is available starting today. We can only hope that good sense will prevail and this product won't find a market.
Atlas Sports Genetics, a Boulder, Colo. company, is peddling a $149 genetic test that is supposed to tell parents whether their children, from infancy to age 8, are likely to be the next Michael Phelps. According to a New York Times story Sunday, the test is supposed "to determine whether a person would be better at speed and power sports, like sprinting or football, or endurance sports like distance running, or a combination of the two."
Some of the parents quoted in the article said they want to help their children focus on sports where they can excel, and they certainly don't want to miss the chance to develop a world-class athlete if he's sitting right there in the highchair.
Besides, what's the sense in wasting time watching little Sarah play soccer if she doesn't have a chance of becoming the next Mia Hamm? Why teach little Sam to play baseball if his skills won't get him past Little League?
The answer, of course, is that the purpose of sports for children is not to turn them into a multi-million-dollar product.
Children who play a sport learn how to compete, yes, but they also learn that not everyone will succeed at everything they try. They learn how to win, but they also learn how to lose, a trick they'll very likely need in life. They get much-needed exercise and they very often have fun. They also can develop a life-long love of sports, the future Steelers and Pirates and Penguins fans of the future. Nothing enhances the enjoyment of watching a game well-played than understanding the hard work that makes it possible.
Carl Foster, director of the human performance laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse suggested to The Times a simpler, cheaper way to determine if a child will excel at sprinting or power sports: "Just line them up with their classmates for a race and see which ones are the fastest."