No matter age, sex, or current physical ability when it comes to being an athlete the “standard” is the “standard.” However, currently the “standard” changes depending on gyms, age, sex, competitions, jams, etc; and that “standard” fluctuates from one extreme to the other. There are 4 aspects to keep in mind in regards to the “standard”, it should be uncompromising, set high, consistent and collective. Let me state clearly that the “standard” we are going to talk about is that of the top potential of the athlete in question. If there was an athlete that didn't have any muscle imbalances, fear holding their movements back and had fully flushed out and practiced technique, how would they perform? This article will go over the details of the four aspects of the “standard” we are talking about that the athlete and parkour community would use to achieve and nurture an athletes top potential.
Holding each other to the highest standard should be the goal for everyone in the community. We all train, we compete, we all strive to learn more and to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones. All of these are great aspects to strive for unless the bar we set to reach those goals is low. Our standard for each other should always be to be better than we were the day before and not just settle to be mediocre. We should want for ourselves and those around us to be the absolute best and well rounded athletes. However, right now in the community this isn’t always happening. We are excusing kids for using bad technique, we’re allowing them to use elbows/knees while climbing, we’re keeping them from trying hard skills; all with the excuse of them being kids or being small. The same has happened for women in the community as well. They are having classes made easier for them and technical errors at competitions are being overlooked for them. They experience being belittled at jams, usually unintentionally, just because they are women. We are so happy that they are doing parkour at all, as the attendance of women in parkour is still not that great. Interactions can be stressed when you want to encourage them to do better, but not know how to approach them without sounding demeaning or dismissive. To not scare them away we need to give them the respect we give to our other tracuers and push them at a high standard. By not doing this the expectations for them are lower than that of their male counter parts. By holding everyone, man, woman, and child to the same and equally high standard in how they train, move, and compete; we will be pushing everyone equally to be the best athlete they can be.
A big part of what will help us as a community to keep our high caliber of training is by also having uncompromising standards. Uncompromising standards is the whole idea of the “standard being the standard” period. If we have set the bar high then that's it, it doesn’t change or discriminate, it is just that, high. You don’t change a run and make it easier because you can't hit it the first time. You work and work at it again and again until you can do it consistently; and then you don’t move on to something else until not only is it consistent, it’s clean. You don’t give up on a move because it’s hard and you aren’t getting it, you keep pushing to accomplish the challenge and conditioning it until you can finally achieve your goal and new heights in your skill. We don’t change rules for competitions because we think kids are incapable of completing it without knees and elbows; we enforce the rules so that the kids can condition themselves to always be able to do lines without knees and elbows. These are only a handful of the uncompromising standards we need to have to push our athletes to be the very best.
Consistency is key. Making sure to not allow double standards to bubble to the surface will keep us from lowering and compromising our high quality of movement. We see this double standard a lot with some of our top athletes. We’ve seen it happen time again where athletes start becoming a big deal and then their movement and continent start degrading and yet we still idolize and promote them. By doing this we are setting a double standard for other athletes. We’re basically saying we know this person isn’t great, but you must be perfect at everything else anyways. We should still be pushing even the top athletes to stay and surpass the level at which made them famous to begin with.
You might say well, what does it matter if my standards for training aren’t constantly reaching higher? How could that possibly affect people poorly? Well for women, by setting the bar lower for them it will affect their skill level, possibly stunting some pretty awesome potential, simply because the men making the rules assume they are not as good as them. Saying things like “That was really good for being a girl” or praising them for any little achievement, when we know they can do better, will degrade them and their movement. Not to mention their self-esteem in general. Things like this stop people from reaching their potential and keeps them as second class people. This also shows the women that the men don’t respect them as fellow athletes. Children’s skill level will be affected when the athletes/coaches they idolize tell them that their movement was awesome when in fact it was “good enough” then those low standards will manifest throughout other aspects of their life. In general if we lower the caliber of movement for women and children then the overall level of our sport will be lowered. We will not have people pushing new movements or skills and the legitimacy of parkour will slowly but surely go away. This certainly applies to newer male practitioners as well.
The standards must be embraced and enforced by everyone in the community to make them work. There has to be a collective decision to consistently and uncompromisingly hold every single athlete in the community to the highest caliber possible however, not at the expense of safety of course. We are simply saying people should be encouraged to strive higher. Together we can keep progressing the level of our sport to new heights and pave the way for future athletes to make a career from this wonderful sport called parkour.
PPK Philly Team