Youngest SportsKids Ever?

The last issue of Sports Illustrated Kids highlighted the achievements of six-year-old Courtney Diemar. Courtney lives in Colorado and competes in triathlons.  She was first in her age group at the 2010 IronKids national championships, beating other six-year-old girls by more than a minute.  Judging by her picture, Courtney doesn't look very fierce, so I wondered how many kids she trounced on her way to victory.  I assumed not many six-year-olds compete in triathlons, but it turns out 32 of them competed in the national tournament-- and 13 of them were girls (note that three six-year-old boys beat Courtney).

Courtney was one of four kids featured as January/February SportsKids of the "month."  Along with Courtney 13-year-old Connor was honored for cycling, 10-year-old Makayla for soccer, and thirteen-year-old Kirran for golf. It's easy enough to nominate a child for this honor. You simply fill out an online form, detailing the child's sports, academic, and community service accomplishments. In the March issue of Sports Illustrated Kids, which I just received, this month's four honorees are all about the same ages, and they tend to participate in unusual sports (thirteen-year-old Lauren competes in archery, nine-year-old Jason in cross-country, fourteen-year-old Davon in football, and nine-year-old Alyssa in trampoline).

Sports Illustrated runs a similar piece each week, called "Faces in the Crowd," which has been a feature of the magazine since January 1956 (it's two years younger than the magazine itself, which Henry Luce started in 1954).  When "Faces in the Crowd" turned fifty, SI looked back at the 15,672 amateur athletes who had been featured up to that point [some of the results are in this Wikipedia entry, or you can look up the original in the December 15, 2006 issue entitled "Face in the Crowd (A Brief History)"]. A few of the fun facts include:

  • 5,706 Female Faces
  • 263 Faces Named John
  • 123 Faces Named Smith
  • 233 Sports Represented
  • 96 Countries Represented
  • 68 Faces who later appeared on cover of SI
  • 56 sets of twins that have appeared in Faces
  • 3 SI Staffers that have been featured in Faces (Dan Jenkins, Bev Oden, Candy Putnam)
  • 31 Women who were selected as Faces for being Beauty Queens

(One of my personal faves is Vera Wang's 1968 appearance for figure skating; of course, she went on to design figure skating costumes for my favorite figure skater of all time, Michelle Kwan.)

To my knowledge, no one has taken a similar look at the kids who have been honored in the SI Kids version. Not only would it be interesting to know the gender breakdown in the fully post-Title IX environment, along with the sports which seem to vary greatly, it would also be important to look at the ages of those who have appeared.

It's a common refrain in the media (myself included) that kids are more competitive in sports at younger ages than ever before.  This is enormously difficult to document with data though. By looking at the ages of SportsKids we would possibly see this downward trend-- think about six-year-old Courtney. I'm guessing no one like Courtney appeared in 1989, when SI Kids started.

SI Kids- call me!