Over the years many athletes face the detrimental consequences of ageism in sports.
Feeling fragile, weak and the need to slow down is not even the half of it. Athletes are denied jobs, forced to give up on dreams prematurely and struggle with low self-esteem.
Jamaican athlete Ricardo Cunningham was only 35-years-old when an article was published highlighting that, “at his age, he is considered a grandfather in sports, racing against Father Time” though Cunningham felt he was just entering his prime.
In 2018, The Olympic Channel shared the concerns of 71-year-old Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston marathon who “feels ageism is right there with sexism.”
Here’s what it’s going to take to reduce the effects of ageism: changing attitudes and changing health.
Age helps to determine our interaction with others, especially when meeting new people. We look to age to answer questions like— will they be competent? Socially aware? How slowly should I talk? How loudly? It’s something we do every day, however, using it to decide social, cognitive and physical abilities is not always reliable.
So, rather than using someone’s age as permission to place limitations on them, it’s better to find out what individuals are actually capable of.
I can’t remember the year but I went to Boys’ and Girls’ Champs and witnessed the ‘parents race’. The line-up consisted of parents 50-years-old and older (if I had to guess). Usually, this race isn’t taken seriously; just for fun. When the gun went off, it was no laughing matter though. The parents were powerful runners.
Sadly, older persons usually place limitations on themselves. Competition involves failure and success. Frequent disappointment is embarrassing and makes age an easy target. Age is used as an excuse to give up and accept defeat.
Yes. Getting older can affect athletic performance. But believing that our health steadily declines once it peaks in our 20s and 30s is inaccurate.
According to Jonathan Cawte, Sports Scientist & founder of Executive Athlete, the process happens over time. “Peak performance does not decline in a linear fashion. It is gradual.”
The scientist suggests that once poor lifestyle choices are removed from the equation, the potential of an athlete is great. The ageing athlete can “maximize the ‘healthspan’ by reaching a peak and then maintain our health, physical and cognitive capacities for as long as we can, compressing ill-health into as short a period as possible.” How well an athlete is able to do this depends on the particular athlete and therefore, making a judgement about an athlete based solely on their age may be a mistake.
Similarly, Ricardo Cunningham understands how his body works and how that knowledge helped him as a well-established athlete.
“I am a sports science major, so that kind of gives me the advantage in the sense that I know how the body functions and what to expect,” Cunningham said.
“I know certain…