When my partner Jeff was young he raced small sailboats, lasers, pretty competitively. But he never had a chance against some of his friends who made it all the way. Not for lack of talent. Instead, the dividing line was money. The wealthy kids had all the equipment, of course, but more than that they had time to train. There was no pressure to work and they could sail all summer.
Now that’s just part of the story but it was striking to watch those who never had to work make their way through university, keeping up in their sport along the way. And it’s true for lots of sports. I once complimented my son for making the provincial rugby team. He quickly pointed out that he wasn’t the best, just the best of those kids whose parents could afford the registration fees and commit to all that driving. Smart kid.
What’s interesting though now is watching the same phenomena play out in mid-life!
We thought that once parents stopped supporting their kids that the playing field would level out a bit. Not so much. I wrote earlier this week about working part-time and early retirement. I approached the question from the perspective of health and overall well-being but you could also ask it from the point of view of sports performance. Each spring I struggle to balance end of term grading with the start of the cycling season. It’s tough. I’ve got a friend who is a tax accountant and she struggles too. Tax time is peak early season training time.
While we struggle, I’ve also got friends who post their “Retired Guys Rides” on Strava and Facebook. They’re time flexible. They can wait for the sunshine and warm weather. They can ride everyday if they want. Sometimes I’m jealous.
Some of these same people also go south in the winter and ride. Why not?
And the same is true for sailing. Some of the fastest masters class racers retire at 50 or 55 and spend their winters in warm places training. Competition is their full-time job. 55 and working full-time is pretty different than 55 and training full-time,
Is it fair? I don’t know. I do know that come spring I’m jealous other peoples’ weekday rides and their afternoon naps!