It Takes Time to Develop Talent (and Ideas)

“Looks like it’s all gas-and-go’s for McQueen today … Normally I’d say that’s a short-term gain, long-term loss, but it sure is workin’ for him. He obviously knows somethin’ we don’t.” – Darrell Cartrip (played by Darrell Waltrip), Cars

(Of course he didn’t. Lightning McQueen ended up blowing two tires on the last lap and tied a race that should’ve been an easy win. But, the tie turned out to be a saving grace as he went on to lose his self-centered-ness and find love in a little town called Radiator Springs.)

This past Saturday, the US soccer team was eliminated from the World Cup. Arguably, it was a great performance for us, making it to the knock-out round (final 16). But, we lost to Ghana in typical fashion – not making the most of opportunities while Ghana capitalized on every chance they had.

The loss gave rise to some “water cooler” discussions about what is wrong with US soccer. The obvious answer is, well, obvious. In America, the best athletes tend to prefer football, or basketball, or baseball. Thus, when we field a team it is not with our best athletes. (This was stunningly clear when our forward Clint Dempsey got absolutely walked-down on a break away by the Ghanaian defender.) I don’t think this fully explains it though. After all, Paraguay, home to around 6.3 million people (versus our 300+ million) has made the round of 8.

I offered a theory that perhaps what the US was lacking was unorganized soccer. There are certain skills you would never develop in pee-wee league soccer because the coach would yank you out for trying crazy moves. However, these are exactly the moves you need to play at the World Cup level. These are also the kind of moves people will develop playing pick-up soccer games in places like Brazil or Argentina.

At this point. A coworker pointed me to a New York Times Article about a Dutch soccer club, Ajax, and their academy for developing talent. It’s a very interesting read. The thrust of the article confirms my suspicions. The Dutch develop individual soccer talent at the expense of youth league performance. They are more interested in who is doing the right things than who is scoring goals. They are interested in polishing individuals to play the game well later in life. They do NOT over exert the youth talent, not wishing to harm them while they’re still developing, and express a great interest in allowing kids to play pick-up gains to develop skill, flair, and love of the game.

It’s not unheard of in other American sporting events. We all have stories of a neighborhood kid who was a phenomenal pitcher at age 13, only to wash out of the game by high school. Why? Little league coaches would pitch him every game so they could win. By the time he got older, he had done enough minuscule damage to the rotator cuff and couldn’t pitch anymore.

Don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not among those who say winning doesn’t matter. It does. What I am pointing out is that in sports, it is not often winning games in the 12-year-old league that determines who will be a great player later. Rather, it is important to take the time to develop individual talent, which allows for team greatness when it really matters. Sometimes, winning later is more important than winning now.

A similar concept would seem to hold true for ideologies and political movements. If all you ever play is “organized politics” and all you ever want is to “win the next election” then you’ll fall into the same trap. I know plenty of conservatives who are so concerned about winning the next election that they tend to be slaved to the Republican party. Unwilling to criticize George W. Bush or the Congressional Republicans despite their rabid nonsense.

There will always be the next election to contend with. It may be more important in the long run to continue to develop ideas, to continue to explain policy preferences and choices to the public, to build a grass-roots base.

I’ve met a great number of conservatives who express consternation over the election of Barack Obama as President. Now, I’m no fan of Barack Obama’s. His preference for state control over freedom is frighteningly fascist. His use of taxpayer funds to give away political favors is reprehensible. He is selling our children into financial slavery to support his statist dreams of a progressive future.

Be this as it may, does anyone really think things would be different if John McCain had won the election? I suspect the payouts would have gone different places, but the results would have been strikingly similar. GM would have failed, and taxpayer funds used to prop up bad business. Banks would continue to struggle under the weight of bad loans, and taxpayer funds would be used to prop them up. Housing markets would continue to slide despite government prop up efforts. Double-digit unemployment? You bet. Heck, McCain probably would’ve pushed for comprehensive health care reform. John McCain is a progressive. He no more supports freedom than Barack Obama – he just has different preferences for it’s repression.

For crying out loud, if my preferred candidate (Ron Paul) had won we probably still would have seen double digit unemployment. Things were a mess. One election wasn’t going to change that.

I suppose in some way the Obama win was the best thing that could have happened for the freedom-lovers of this country. It roused the conservatives – possibly to the point of pitching the Republicans overboard. Sometimes it takes an absolutely catastrophic presidency to awaken the freedom-loving American spirit. Remember, Ronald Reagan only came to the presidency after Jimmy Carter did his level best to wreck the entire country and surrender to the Soviets. Perhaps the utterly ineffectual and inept presidency of Barack Obama will give rise to a new leader who promotes freedom over collectivism.

In the mean time, we must, all of us, continue to develop and nourish the ideals of freedom that we hold dear. If we do not, they may not be around for our children. The lies of socialism and fascism are awfully tempting, especially in hard times. But they only lead to greater suffering. It is too important to take time off now. We cannot look the other way while our children’s freedom is taken away for a little less pain now.

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