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Athletic Performance & Effort: Gen Z Vs. Earlier

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Athletic Performance & Effort: Gen Z Vs. Earlier

Athletic performance

Athletic performance

David Seppelin

Athletic performance

David Seppelin

David Seppelin

Athletic performance

David Seppelin

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In the 1912 Olympic games, marathon runner Ken McArthur ran 2:36:54.8, won the gold and set a new Olympic record. During the 2012 Olympics – one hundred years later – Stephen Kiprotich ran a 2:08:01 marathon. If they would have been racing together, Kiprotich would have beat McArthur by an astonishing half hour.

In 1972 Mark Spitz shook the swimming world finishing the 200m butterfly with a 2:00.70. Currently, Michael Phelps holds the world record 200m fly at 1:51.5, around nine seconds faster than Spitz. Olympic swimmers train years to shave multiple tenths of a second off their best time. Why have Kiprotich and Phelps performed better than McArthur and Spitz? Are athletes getting faster, stronger?

As time goes on technology enhances and our understanding of physiology, psychology, anatomy, biomechanics, biochemistry, and biokinetics greatens. Nowadays, athletes take for granted variables like synthetic tracks, faster-designed shoes, conditioning/tapering, sport specific coaches, and smarter diets. If Phelps swam against Spitz without goggles, without a fancy suit and with a mustache (normal attire for 1972) would Phelps still have held about nine seconds faster? This begs the question, are athletes improving compared to their predecessors?

Athletes in the present have one obvious advantage… technology. Technology is shaping the world of sports for the better, or is it?

Reviewing gameplay is a major benefit technology has brought athletes. Many teams and individual professionals use game footage of themselves and their opponents to expose weaknesses in performance.

Coach Caouette who has coached baseball, basketball, and cross-country at Oakmont Regional High School says, “Game film has become a lot easier to watch and evaluate. The analysis that you can undertake as a coach or player has changed.”  Small and convenient cameras can be mounted to athletes to help correct technique, whereas drones, virtual reality, and slow-motion cameras give officials the capability to spot cheating and help judge close calls on the field.

Technology has come a long way when it comes to an athletes diet. Genetically engineered high protein and nutrient-dense foods play a big role in aiding muscle growth, recovery and replenishing nutrients. “Back in the day, we didn’t have protein (drinks and bars) and things like that… nowadays, especially if you are in college, you have to do the protein supplements because if you don’t, your working hard, your muscles start to get smaller. Your body needs that energy and if it doesn’t have that energy, it turns on itself,” says Mr. Douglas, a physical education teacher and coach at Oakmont, “When it comes to nutrients I think it has improved for athletes, a lot.”    

The best athletes are always the most serious. Without a doubt top athletes, whether generation X, Y or Z, are often the most serious. But a disheartening trend has surfaced with America’s young athletes. Along the road to victory, many athletes are suddenly starting to call the quits. According to a poll from the National Alliance for Youth Sports, around 70 percent of kids in the United States stop playing sports by the age of 13. Could this be a negative effect of technology concerning generation Z? “They have all these video games and it’s off the wall. Kids would rather go home and [play video games] than play the actual sport… Where [in the 1970s] we didn’t have this stuff. We were playing outside,” Douglas said.

Coach and teacher, Mr. Asadoorian says, “When I was young I left my house in the morning and didn’t come home … I’m talking about [when I was] ten, eleven, twelve years old… society was at least perceived safer back then… A lot of kids are stuck in the house playing video games. A lot of kids will play sports video games, but they have a convoluted view of what sports is, it doesn’t translate as well on the field.”

Technology is the leading innovator of sports. But is technology affecting the ways of the game? Could Kiprotich, Phelps, Usain Bolt, Tom Brady, and Cristiano Ronaldo have made a name for themselves if technology wasn’t present?

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Athletic Performance & Effort: Gen Z Vs. Earlier