After I requested requests, Trey Anastasio asked me:
If a parent were to pick a sport for their child to play competitively, what would you suggest? (factoring in cost, commitment, personal development, opportunities provided in life)
I take this to refer to stardom in high school or college, but not beyond.
I am inclined to select tennis. It doesn’t cost so much, and you can play for most of the rest of your life, without needing a team to back you up. It is unlikely to injure you very seriously, although arguably it cultivates an attitude of selfishness. Various areas of track would be reasonable picks too. If this is restricted to major team sports, I say baseball, mostly to minimize risk of injury or violence.
That said, my overall sense is that levels of competition in all of these areas have become higher than is socially optimal. Little League success will suffice for a lot of the gains in terms of learning leadership, discipline, and teamwork. So I would not wish any of these upon a child. These endeavors have become academic fundraisers where levels of competition are pushed as high as the talent allows, and too often they have become all-consuming pursuits, in violation of Aristotle’s edicts about moderation. Sports have gone from a very cheap way of educating your child to a very expensive way, yet another example of unmeasured declining productivity in education.