Koa Sports

To Redshirt or Not to Redshirt?

Recently there has been a new fashion movement catching everyone’s attention.  No, leg warmers are not back in style, much to my chagrin; rather, this year’s hottest look is a simple red shirt.  However, unlike many other societal trends in style, this novel adaptation of the red shirt means a lot more for the youth in America than one might think.

“Redshirting” is a term that was originally devised to describe a freshman athlete in college who spends his or her first year without playing in any regulation games.  “How is that possible?” you might be asking yourself—this is where things get a little complicated.  In college athletics, “redshirting” a player means that, that specific player will be able to practice with the team year round, yet they are not allowed to be put into a game.  By redshirting during their freshman year, that particular athlete will have the option to stay an extra year and still maintain their player eligibility.  Sometimes this is done when a player sustains an injury during their first year and is unable to play.  In this case, redshirting gives them the opportunity to truly play for their team for the full four years once they have healed.  Another time it is used, which is becoming very popular as of late, is when an athlete might not be fully prepared, either mentally or physically, to take part in on-field play at the collegiate level during their first year and are given extra time to grow.

Redshirting is most often seen in male sports where an extra year of practice and maturation can really make a difference on the field.  Whether it be in football, soccer, lacrosse or baseball, this practice is incredibly common in college and is rarely ever disputed.  Lately, this idea of holding back children for a year has extended past the confines of college athletics and is now being looked at as a possible “cure-all” for athletes in any stage of life.

With redshirting eliciting so many obvious benefits at the collegiate level it’s no surprise that parents are hoping to kick start this advantageous age bump at earlier and earlier ages.  Parents are now thinking twice when it comes to admitting their child to kindergarten at the tender age of five and giving more thought to waiting an extra year.  This has sometimes been seen at the 8th grade and high school age group as well, where an athlete repeats a year in order to find their most powerful position in sports.

This debate of redshirting your child in kindergarten is incredibly longwinded and many believe it challenges societal norms of social and academic growth.  However, it seems parents who disagree with this practice don’t fully understand the positive outcomes that can accrue if a child waits an extra year before attending kindergarten.

Of course it’s impossible to know 12 years in advance how your child will perform in sports—maybe they won’t even play sports!  But hey, that’s a possibility that is, quite honestly, worth the alleged “risk”.  What’s the mental difference between a five-year old and a six-year old?  The six year-old might have a better concept of how simple addition works?  Now, what’s the physical difference between a five year-old and a six year-old?  Probably about 2.5 inches and 12 pounds; so, simply put, an obvious difference does exist physically between children who are only one year apart.

By waiting a year, you are giving your child a physical leg up on the competition he or she will soon be facing if they chose to play sports.  This one-year might seem infinitesimal at first glance, yet it can make a world of difference in the long run.  In competition, a child who is one year older than their opponents will have one more year of height, weight and power over everyone else.  Malcolm Gladwell even proved this point in his book Outliers where he asserted, with statistical proof, that athletes chosen early on to join the best sports teams were, most often, older than the rest of the kids in their class.

The argument against this point is that holding back a child could potentially cause a developmental handicap to form.  A child will not suffer any type of social or academic reparations due to being held back by one year.  He or she will adapt in the exact same manner as everyone else.  Intelligence and sociability are intrinsic characteristics of a person that will bloom whenever they are ready to—their outward manifestation is not determined by the age a child is when they first cross the kindergarten threshold.  If anything, that additional year can help a child thrive in their classroom both academically as well as socially.  In a study completed by Elizabeth Dhuey and Kelly Bedard of the University of Toronto Scarborough, their harbored data showed that the older students in a 4th grade class scores 4% to 12% higher in testing than their younger compatriots.  These older students were also found to be 4% to 11% more likely to hold leadership positions in school.

The “Red Shirt” idea certainly goes far deeper than a new outfit being donned on the cover of a fashion magazine, though it still offers an obvious look at the trends in our society today.  Redshirting will be as controversial as everything else in the world that has been discovered (Galileo will certainly understand where I’m coming from); nevertheless, it should not be a discovery that’s discarded without equal opportunity to prove its veracity.  Redshirting very well might be the style that decides to stick around for quite a long time.

-Tony Korson, CEO 05/29/15