The “Athletic Performance” image uses a pyramid to represent the path children are forced into at a young age, with the ultimate objective at the top of the pyramid being a professional athlete after working through the various levels of competitive sports.
The color-coded pyramid of athletic performance explicitly shows the three prerequisite levels that athletes must pass through in order to achieve the eventual goal of becoming a professional athlete in the United States. The bottom of the pyramid is labeled “youth organized sports”, which is the first step to becoming athletically talented. After youth organized sports, the pyramid suggests that the athlete becomes a high school player, during which time they train vigorously to be recruited as an intercollegiate student-athlete. After being a stand-out at a division one school, few become lucky enough to reach the highest and smallest level of the pyramid: professional sports.
Participating in recreational sports at a very young age provides a child with the necessary spark in the interest of sports. Without awareness at a young age, one cannot become infatuated with athletics soon enough to be absolutely successful in the athletic arena. After a child becomes completely devoted to one sport, making the sport his or her “job”, in a sense, they become an athlete that represents their high school. While this realm of sports is competitive, the athlete learns more about teamwork and leadership, which they must carry with them in order to be efficacious in the highest two levels. The first two steps of the pyramid therefore add up to lead a teenager on a college search to be desirable and talented, with the goal in the third level of the pyramid being a division one offer with scholarship money from a prestigious university. An athlete is truly considered successful if, and when, they are given money to play at a division one school, and those who aren’t fortunate to get offers must give up their whole life of work, erasing the significance of first two steps entirely, and thought to be stuck in the lower level of athletics, never reaching the top. After college athletics, the stakes are higher and an even smaller number go on to become professional athletes, the top of the pyramid, and essentially the top of the world for an athlete.
From early childhood, participating in recreational sports, that are meant to be fun, entails constant pressures to become the next superstar in the athletic arena. Whether this pressures come from family or from American society as a whole, it’s clear from this image that the end goal for athletes are to become professionals, giving their entire life away to a sport that might not even work out in the end. After working many hours a day, every day, for many years, many athletes are forced to give up their dream, because only few reach the golden top tier of the athletic spectrum.
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