Shrinking and Pinking: Stars of the Future

This edition of Shrinking and Pinking starts with the shrinking component-- though with a focus on the shrinking of athletes' ages, not the clothes they wear.

Have you heard about Baerke van der Meij? Van der Meij has become a YouTube star for his soccer skills. Based on that video the Dutch soccer club VVV-Venlo signed him to a ten-year contract. Why is this newsworthy? Because van der Meij is... eighteen months old.

This is not a joke, as I myself first thought. The contract is mainly symbolic, but the club does want first dibs on him once he hits seven and can actually start seriously playing.  Little Baerke seems to have some serious soccer talent already (check out his toy box kicks) and his grandfather played for for the club in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  It seems that the press conference where Baerke signed his contract was pretty tongue in cheek though (he scribbled his name, had some orange juice to celebrate, etc.).  But note that the Dutch do take their soccer seriously (for a fantastic piece on Dutch soccer training methods for kids read last year's New York Times Magazine piece by Michael Sokolove).  Only time will tell if Baerke van der Meij delivers on his toddler promise.

Alexis "Lexi" Thompson is a bit older than Baerke, at 16, but she still qualifies as a promising star of the future.  She's been a phenom since age 12, when she qualified for the US Women's Open.  At 15, Thompson was the youngest female golfer to turn professional, about a year ago. Last weekend she almost became the youngest LPGA winner at the Avnet LPGA Classic; Thompson stumbled at the very end, hitting two shots into the water, and she ended up 19th (though she still took home a $14,715 check).

Despite the setback, Lexi Thompson still has about two more years to become the youngest tour winner ever-- an example of shrinking age standards and higher expectations than ever for young athletes.

FYI-- seems Thompson also likes to play in pink.

Last weekend another group of female athletes were given the chance to make some history of their own.  The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association added wrestling as a girls' sport. It's the first time in eleven years that a new high school sport has been added (the last one was girls' hockey). Only 84 Massachusetts girls participated in high school wrestling last year, so there likely won't be girls' teams for some time.  However, there likely will be an individual tournament for girls (this was an idea I wrote about related to the dust-up at the Iowa state wrestling championships a few months ago).  It's great that more female athletes will get the chance to represent their high schools and compete against their peers. Hopefully more states will follow suit.

Look forward to seeing who will become the female wrestling stars of the future, when Lexi Thompson will win her first major, and how good a soccer player Baerke can der Meij will be... in eighteen years or so!