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There are 6 comments on POV: Simone Biles Teaches Us Why We Must Support All Athletes Better

  1. To help in this effort our society as a whole has to develop a collective ethos which is not as manically hyper-competitive and celebrity-obsessed as our current one is. Helping athletes (and others) to deal with the pressure-cooker generated stress largely by working on their “own head” is less helpful, ultimately, than redesigning, or even dismantling, the pressure-cooker itself. (Agreed, this is not likely to happen in the very near future. Among other reasons,there’s too much money in play…)

    1. Given James’ extensive experience, I was wondering if there is a constructive way of framing his observations in the context of some broader conversation taking place in the university.

      1. Many thanks for your comment, Robert. Like many other institutions (and not only of higher education), BU has promoted “wellness” through a variety of programs (aimed at students, staff, and faculty). Most of these programs are designed to mitigate, in advance, the effects of the “pressure cooker” to which I alluded, or to help to pick up the pieces once individuals have suffered crises of varying levels of intensity. These “wellness” programs deserve much credit, but they ultimately can’t undo the endemic structural problems caused by the “pressure cooker”. Redesigning, or dismantling, the “pressure cooker” requires a massive, collective effort going well beyond the confines of higher education. It would require a profound change in societal values along with the very economic system which those values promote and defend. In terms of our own sector of that socioeconomic system, short-term steps could be made to contribute to the wider change necessary. College and universities could abstain from participating in the rankings racket promoted by publications such as U.S. News and World Report. This racket puts pressure on administrators whose careers can be affected by whether the “rank” of their employer goes up or down. Administrators, in turn, exert pressure on faculty so as to help the institution to rise in the rankings racket. This translates into the whole matter of “productivity”–a slippery, ill-defined concept which provides much of the fuel for heating up the “pressure cooker” specific to the academy. This is not the place to discuss both the direct, and collateral, damage caused by the application (or misapplication) of this concept. It would have to happen as part of that “broader conversation” to which Robert refers. One example of a starting point for that conversation could be the expectations regarding tenure in CAS (where I teach). Expectations were already very high during the Silber era, but I’ve noted increasing allusions to the “raising of the bar” in recent years. The adding of a 7th year to the “probationary period” for junior faculty reinforced the impression many faculty already had. The idea is that the expectations are so high nowadays that you “really do need” that “extra year”. The current system is, indeed, loaded down with measures/programs designed to help junior faculty reach that famous “bar”, but all in all they, too, ultimately enhance the operational capacity of the “pressure cooker”. “Given every chance to succeed”, junior faculty members will “only have themselves to blame” if they don’t manage to land tenure. That sensation can turn toxic very easily…

  2. Let us line up facts here:
    From ‘Fancy Bear’ we know Simone Biles regularly takes methylphenidate. Next, her team’s Doctor was jailed. Then she fails to perform.
    I guess, get permission from WADA to use performance-enhancing drugs is not enough, and maybe the wrong team represented by the Olympic committee.

    1. The (mean-spirited) comment made by “Anton” inadvertently supports my own comment above. The use of performance-enhancing drugs is a direct off-shoot of the “pressure cooker” currently maintained by that collective ethos to which I referred. Athletes in many sports use them (including white athletes, “Anton”–e.g. Lance Armstrong). Why? Because of that manic, socially propelled drive to be “number 1” (which, yes, can often generate substantial wealth–for the athlete, for his/her team, commercial sponsors, etc.).

  3. Success in any field puts demands on individuals in all aspects of life. If the pressure is too much, than anyone has the option to “quit”. She’s no longer a competitor in her field. That’s her decision. She should have considered leaving the team before going to Tokyo and allowed another competitor to take her place. All the talk about stress is camouflage. EVERYONE who competes comes across these situations one way or another. How the situation is handled is what determines the outcome. There’s nothing “mean spirited” in stating the facts. This situation has nothing to do with differentiating between black or white athletes. Winning and losing in all aspects of life is a function of determination and ability. Simon Biles was not able to perform, so she left the team. Her decision. No excuses. Everyone, including her teammates, are left to deal with her actions and the resulting outcomes.

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