Greg Schultz has this column up at ESPN.com in anticipation of his interview with former b-baller, current University of Delaware volleyballer Elena Delle Donne. The interview airs tomorrow at 9am (EST) on ESPN. [Note to self: record that.]
I find it so hard to believe that people find it so hard to believe that Delle Donne left a sport in which she was a superstar to play something else; that she doesn't miss basketball; that she likes volleyball; that she does not long for the spotlight and adoration playing b-ball would have brought her.
And mostly I am talking to you, Geno Auriemma, who says:
"I don't know how you can play that much basketball and be that good at it and say, 'I hate it since the time I was 13.' To me, those two things don't go together … that you would be that good at something and not enjoy any of it. It's hard for me to come to grips with.
"I'm still not able to see how that makes any sense. I didn't understand it and haven't understood it right from the beginning."
And that is why I do not think Auriemma is a good coach--because he has a very narrow paradigm about what sport is and should be. I don't care about his win-loss record or his recruiting abilities. I care about his self-proclaimed lack of understanding; and his skewing of the situation: Delle Donne never said she hated basketball. She said it wasn't fun anymore. And her very success at the sport was what kept her in it for so long. And the narrow paradigms like those of Auriemma's was what made her constantly question her lack of passion when she was clearly the best.
Auriemma and others have practically pathologized Delle Donne and her decision to leave the best program in the country, to give up what surely would have been a successful and lucrative career in basketball. an opportunity to "write her own ticket."
I don't see why others do not believe burnout happens in successful youth players. It seems that it would be all the more understandable in standouts whose lives are revolving around the sport.
And the thing is is that Delle Donne has not left sport; she has not poo-pooed the value of sport in one's life. And she still has passion for sport. It just happens to be a sport she didn't train her whole life to play; a less high-profile sport; a sport that offers fewer opportunities for (the dominant version of sporting) success.
To me, it all seems pretty sane.
And there are others out there who see what is happening to young athletes. Mechelle Voepel's column this week highlights two other players who had similar but less high-profile departures from premiere collegiate programs. And she talks the Iowa State head coach who certainly gets it as well.