How to survive a lab

Tips and tricks for scientific success

How to survive a lab

What are labs? Awful three-hour block of red in your timetable starting at 9:00 am on Mondays? A torture chamber for life sciences students? Not always! Yes, labs are terrifying. Yes, they are often a lot of work. But they can also be fun if you know what you’re doing. 

I had so many questions before my first lab: What do I do during the lab? What am I supposed to do before a lab? Why is a lab worth 25 per cent of my grade? But I’m here to tell you to relax, firstyear life sciences students. All you have to do is read up on how to survive your first lab and maybe, just maybe, you’ll even enjoy it.

1. Be prepared

Do your pre-lab readings and prepare your notebook! Preparing for labs not only means that you will ace your pre-lab quiz, but it will also make the lab work feel like smooth sailing — which is the best feeling ever, trust me. You’ll thank yourself when you’re done ahead of time while everyone else is still confused and running after your teaching assistant.

2. Don’t do lab on an empty stomach and four hours of sleep

Get some sleep, caffeine, and breakfast. Imagine trying to get through a three-hour lab with a grumbling stomach and constant yawning. You’re just asking to break that watch glass, miss an observation, or forget a crucial step — and, consequently, redo your trial. Instead, be nice to yourself and go to bed!

3. Write everything down

You have a lab notebook for a reason — use it! Write down all the steps, record all reagents and materials used, observations made, and data recorded. Not only because it’s worth marks, but also because it will help you in solving your post-lab blue sheet, writing your discussion and reviewing for exams; yes, you can be tested on your labs.

4. Start early, and don’t be afraid to ask for help

Nothing is more stressful than sitting down the night before and struggling — and maybe crying — over pre-lab problems that you could have solved a week ago at your teaching assistant’s drop-in office hours. They are an awesome bunch and always willing to help, you simply have to reach out.

5. Have fun!

Very cliché, but very true. Get close to your lab partners. You don’t have to be best friends, though you absolutely can be, but say “hi” outside of the lab and work together on those pre-labs. Get to know your teaching assistant as well. They’re super involved in some really cool research in your area of study and are usually very willing to share. Connect and enjoy!

U of T’s university-mandated leave of absence policy remains controversial a year after it was approved

Policy has been invoked eight times since its debut, says U of T

U of T’s university-mandated leave of absence policy remains controversial a year after it was approved

Content warning: this article contains mentions of suicide

Five months ago, approximately 100 students stood outside Simcoe Hall, the seat of the university’s power, to protest what they perceived to be the administration’s inaction in the face of a growing mental health crisis on campus. Only one day earlier, U of T confirmed that a student died in the Bahen Centre for Information Technology, the site of another suicide the previous summer.

Although protestors gathered in silence, their message to administration officials was clear: despite having at least three known suicides in campus buildings in the past year, U of T has failed to take concrete action on the mental health crisis on campus.

An aspect of the students’ frustration with the administration is the highly controversial university-mandated leave of absence policy, which allows U of T to unilaterally place students on leave if their mental health either poses a dangerous physical risk to themselves or others, or if it negatively impacts their studies. It’s a hallmark of the university’s mental health framework. 

Despite heavy public opposition, Governing Council — the university’s highest decision-making body — passed the policy almost unanimously in June 2018, with only three out of over 40 governors voting against.

According to Sandy Welsh, U of T’s Vice-Provost, Students, the policy has been used eight times in the past year. Six of those cases “involved urgent situations such as death threats with plans including acquiring a weapon, physical attacks and persistent and concerning communications.”

While the other two cases also involved threats, “other systems and supports were in place such that the urgent situations clause did not need to be invoked,” Welsh wrote in an email to The Varsity in late July.

Welsh also noted that a medical professional was involved in all eight cases due to serious mental health issues among the students. When the policy debuted, many within the community took issue with the fact that nowhere in the policy were medical professionals required to be involved.

As it currently stands, the policy notes that medical professionals “may” be involved but does not explicitly make it a requirement.

According to Welsh, two of the eight students placed on leave returned to their studies within six weeks, with accommodations made. The university is working with three others so they can return in the fall. One student is still away, and the remaining two cases are “relatively recent,” she noted.

Welsh also wrote to The Varsity that feedback from the families and students involved in the policy has been positive, citing one family who was pleased with its application. “The family had thought that due to the student’s behaviour, their student would have been expelled,” she said. 

Upon its introduction to the public sphere in the fall of 2017, the policy drew condemnation from student groups who criticized what they saw as a lack of consultation with students. 

Renu Mandhane, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, noted that the initial draft of the policy raised several human rights concerns and fell “short of meeting the duty to accommodate.”

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), under then-president Mathias Memmel, initially backed the policy, noting that they were “impressed” by it. However, the UTSU later withdrew its support due to concerns over the apparent lack of consultations.

Speaking to Governing Council on June 25, a year after the policy was approved, U of T’s Vice-President & Provost Cheryl Regehr noted that due to the generally good feedback on the policy, senior administration has no plans to modify the document. 

Regehr is scheduled to conduct a formal review of the policy in the 2020–2021 academic year.

However, student leaders continue to criticize the policy. Lucinda Qu and Kristen Zimmer, both prominent student activists, strongly rebuked the university’s existing mental health structures at a March Business Board meeting, the first governance meeting sinceafter the Bahen suicide.

Qu, one of the few students in the room, said that “the university is ignoring the needs of students in a blatant attempt to take the onus off of its administration for our mental health, safety, and well-being.”

“We see this policy, we see it in print, we see it in writing, and we are afraid. The consequences of this fear, the consequences of being silenced is life-threatening,” Zimmer said at the same meeting.

Joshua Bowman, President of the UTSU and the organization’s third chief executive since the policy was first introduced, wrote to The Varsity, expressing that the document gives the administration “too much discretionary power” to place students on leave.

Bowman also noted that the policy “is a reflection of the administration’s desire to remedy the mental health crisis from their perspective of the situation,” and that it was not “born out of consultation with students.”

“The reality is that we are experiencing a mental health crisis on campus,” he wrote.

Despite repeated calls from the student body to stop using the policy, even amid the formation of a dedicated mental health task force last spring, U of T is remaining steadfast in keeping it. 

“What we can do and will continue to do is work with our community partners to provide every opportunity for our students to seek the kinds of service and supports they require,” Welsh wrote.

If you or someone you know is in distress, you can call:

  • Canada Suicide Prevention Service phone available 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566
  • Good 2 Talk Student Helpline at 1-866-925-5454
  • Ontario Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-531-2600
  • Gerstein Centre Crisis Line at 416-929-5200
  • U of T Health & Wellness Centre at 416-978-8030.

Warning signs of suicide include:

  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated, or recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. If you suspect someone you know may be contemplating suicide, you should talk to them, according to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.

The Breakdown: How will TA finances change this year?

Provincial government changes spell out an uncertain future for teaching assistants

The Breakdown: How will TA finances change this year?

The provincial government has introduced and passed multiple controversial bills this past year that will affect teaching assistants (TAs) at U of T. Notably, changes to tuition and financial aid structuring and a proposed salary increase cap are a cause for concern. 

TAs at U of T are upper-year undergraduate or graduate students who lead tutorials, grade assignments, and supervise labs. All are unionized under the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Local 3902. These positions are integral to university classes, and the coming changes have left some with concerns about the long-term impact of the Ford government’s policies.

Tuition and financial aid changes

The Ford government slashed domestic tuition by 10 per cent for all colleges and universities across Ontario for the 2019–2020 academic year — U of T is expected to have an $88 million reduction in revenue compared to the original projections. While TA salaries and hours will likely not be impacted since union agreements guarantee a set of conditions, there is a growing worry about job availability. 

Individual departments at the university will be the ones to determine budgeting decisions, including job postings, based on their priorities.

Because of the inherent precarious nature of TAships, many workers choose to juggle multiple jobs to make ends meet. In an interview with The Varsity, Jess Taylor, Chair of CUPE 3902, said that “those additional contracts that people kind of need to be able to afford to live [are] what I’m worried about. I’m worried that there will just be fewer jobs posted as departments start to feel the pinch.” 

Further financial strains will be placed on other TAs due to recent changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program. While in previous years independent students, who are eligible for more funding, were defined as those who were out of high school for four or more years, the new guidelines increased the time to six years. This means that a master’s student who entered university right after finishing high school is still considered dependent on their family’s finances. Furthermore, the adjustment of the grant-to-loan ratio will mean that students will receive fewer grants than before.

When asked about possible support avenues for graduate students, Heather Boon, Vice-Provost Faculty & Academic Life, noted that the university “remain[s] committed” to assisting students. U of T plans to spend $247 million on student aid for this academic year, in part thanks to the Boundless campaign, and is also offering financial advising and short-term financial assistance specifically for graduate students.

Public-sector salary increase cap

The provincial government is on track to pass its contentious Bill 124, or the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act. The bill, first introduced this past June, would place a one per cent cap on pay raises and inclusive benefits for public sector employees across Ontario, TAs included. 

According to Kendall Smith, a representative from the Treasury Board Secretariat of Ontario, the bill is meant to “manage compensation growth in a way that allows for reasonable wage increases while also respecting taxpayers and the services they rely upon.”

Taylor expressed her concern about the bill passing, noting that it would cause employees to lose money over time since the cap is lower than the usual rate of inflation. 

The collective agreement of Unit 1 of CUPE, which TAs fall under, is set to expire at the end of 2020. If passed, the bill will apply to any new agreement.

Meric Gertler on mental health, international tuition, and more

U of T President reflects on his sixth year in the job

Meric Gertler on mental health, international tuition, and more

After an eventful 2018–2019 academic year that was filled with student protests and provincial government changes, U of T President Meric Gertler sat down with The Varsity to reflect on the past 12 months. Gertler spoke on a number of issues, including mental health, international tuition, and truth and reconciliation. 

The Varsity: One of the biggest stories this past year was students’ mental health, with some students viewing U of T’s action on the topic as lacklustre. What do you say to people who believe U of T should be doing more?

Meric Gertler: We were certainly very concerned by the issues that arose during the past year and felt very strongly a responsibility to act. So I took the unusual step of writing to every member of our community. I don’t do that very often, but I just thought that for an issue like student mental health and its relationship to their well-being, it was really important to be able to communicate directly to all of our students as well as our faculty and staff to say, “We’ve heard you, we acknowledge how big an issue this is and how huge a challenge this is, and we’re committing to actually doing something concrete about it.” 

TV: In the letter that you sent out to all students, faculty, and staff, you mentioned that two of your priorities would be engaging with Toronto resources as well as the province. Would you say that the onus would be more on the province and the city to provide mental health services rather than the university? 

MG: So, we are not funded by the provincial government to be a health care-delivering organization, even though we deliver a lot of health care services to our students. This has been the subject of a lot of conversations with our provincial government partners. They recognize the challenge that we have. They have allocated additional funds in their last provincial budget towards mental health, in particular with a focus on student mental health. 

So we continue to expect to see some financial assistance from them. But, also, as your question quite rightly implies, this is a shared responsibility. Obviously, we have primary responsibility for the well-being of our students, but it is something that we expect to address jointly with health care institutions that are primarily funded by the provincial government. 

TV: Speaking of the provincial government, there have been a lot of changes this past year under the Ford administration to both university operations and university life for students. How do you view U of T’s relationship with the province?

MG: I’ll be quite honest here. We were really disappointed that the province did not communicate more openly with us before they made these many changes. That to me was the most disappointing part of the approach of the new government, and we were not quiet in communicating our unhappiness with the whole style with which they interact with us. 

The Strategic Mandate Agreement changes — which are putting a focus on performance-based funding — in theory, at least, we think this can work very well for U of T. It’s designed to enable each university to come forward and articulate what it thinks its distinctive strengths are, and then to base funding on those strengths. This is actually something we’ve been arguing for for 25 years in many ways and advocating for, so at least on paper, that seems to be very nicely aligned with the approach that we’ve been taking.

Other changes, like the 10 per cent cut to tuition we, frankly, think were unhelpful. I know that that particular move has been quite damaging to our budget… Now what are the consequences of that? Well, the consequences are that we have less money available to finance our own financial aid system within the university. 

TV: On the topic of affordability, international students pay much more in tuition than domestic students. How do you see this issue of increasingly unaffordable international tuition?

MG: International students have always paid more than domestic students. That gap has grown over time but this has been true for a long, long time, and it reflects a couple of things. It reflects the fact that we receive no government grants for international students, so there’s no subsidy at all from the province of Ontario for those students… The families of those international students have not been paying taxes in Ontario either, and I suppose that the provincial government may feel that that’s some justification for the fact that there is no grant support for those students. 

We are, though, mindful of the fact that we want to encourage a diverse community of international students to come to this university. It should not just be international students from wealthy families, but we want to enable all international students if they are academically qualified to potentially come here. So there too we’ve been active in creating scholarships for international students and fundraising for them.

TV: U of T has committed to the goals of the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and there was a Steering Committee report released in 2017 with recommendations for the university. Since that report came out, do you see any major gaps that U of T should be filling when it comes to truth and reconciliation? 

MG: This is another topic that’s near and dear to my heart, and also near and dear to the provost’s heart. We were greatly influenced by the work of our Steering Committee and enthusiastically adopted all of their recommendations. We’ve done some amazing things since then.

This past year we have hired 18 new Indigenous scholars, which is a remarkable achievement if you think about it, because every university in Canada is trying to do the same thing so it’s a very competitive labour market right now. We’re thrilled to have this incoming talent. So I would say that’s one area where we have really succeeded dramatically in. 

In the longer term, of course, we’re looking at the future of First Nations House and how best to accommodate all of the important activities that go on there. There have been discussions underway about whether the current location is the right location or not, and we’re looking at alternatives for that as well. I think we’ve got some impressive momentum underway, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

TV: Do you think that U of T has any institutional problems with addressing barriers of access for people?

MG: We’re one of the most open and accessible institutions in the world. If you think of our 90,000 students, the incredible diversity that we have, measured along any dimension you can think of, whether it’s the language that you spoke at home, the country you were born in, the ethnicity of your parents, your sexual orientation, your political views, you name it. 

I think it’s one of the things that is most defining of the University of Toronto is not just our academic excellence and the great rankings and we have every year, it’s our ability to combine that academic excellence with an incredible degree of openness and access which very few other universities around the world can match.

TV: And then once these students do get here, what accommodations do you think are necessary to make sure that everyone feels welcome at the school? 

MG: Making sure that everyone understands what our codes of student conduct entail, and what our policies entail with regard to freedom of expression and these kinds of important principles of academic freedom on which a university is based. That does require a little bit of effort to make sure that people understand those principles but I think we’ve got a pretty good system in place.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Downtown Legal Services hit by triple blow from Ford cuts

Student-run clinic faces uncertain future

Downtown Legal Services hit by triple blow from Ford cuts

“A difficult and uncertain time,” is how Acting Executive Director Karen Bellinger described the present and future of Downtown Legal Services (DLS). Recent announcements by the Ford government entailed that Legal Aid Ontario funding would be reduced, that Faculty of Law tuition would be decreased by 10 per cent, and that students now have the option to opt out of DLS’ incidental fee due to the Student Choice Initiative (SCI). All pose heavy consequences for the student-run legal aid clinic.

Five staff lawyers, about 120 law students, and volunteers addressed over 650 files last year at DLS, providing free legal services to U of T students and low-income individuals in the community in the areas of housing, criminal, employment, family, and refugee and immigration law. 

For students, DLS provides free legal services on issues ranging from academic offences to landlord disputes, maintains a free notary and affidavit service, and acts as a training ground for law students.

A wide array of students seek help at DLS, explained Bellinger, however, most commonly DLS handles cases of academic offence, housing disputes, and employment issues. A 2011 Globe and Mail report found that international students are disproportionately represented in academic offence cases at Ontario universities, usually due to a language or cultural barrier. Bellinger agrees that this is still the case when profiling the students DLS helps at U of T.

“A very grim outlook”

The first and second rounds of potential cuts came in January. With the announcement of the SCI, students can now opt out of the $3.29 incidental fee that makes up 30 per cent of the DLS budget. The Faculty of Law, which also supports the DLS, will take hits to its budget through a 10 per cent cut in domestic tuition and subsequent tuition freeze, announced at the same time.

A $133 million cut to Legal Aid Ontario, announced in April, muddied an already uncertain future for DLS, which now has a majority of its income sources either in jeopardy or already cut.

“We’re getting hit from all sides, really, unfortunately. And… it most likely means that we’re going to have to scale down divisions or work, at the very least, if not potentially lose some [divisions]. It’s a very grim outlook.”

What comes next?

Bellinger described an atmosphere of community and support at the DLS office in response to the precarity of its ongoing work, without any information on student levy funding until late September to early October — and a fiscal year that started in March. However, the organization is carrying on with bated breath.

The optimistic outcome for Bellinger is for students to recognize that “student groups are essential services.” However, she also acknowledged that economically vulnerable students need to save money where they can.

“No one thinks they’re going to need a lawyer. No one plans on that… We’re only needed when something goes badly,” said Bellinger.

“[The cuts] are going to mean that people who are the most vulnerable in our society and communities will not have anywhere to turn. The vast majority of our clients are people… who don’t have any other option.” 

The Breakdown: The CFS–Ontario’s legal challenge against the Student Choice Initiative

Levy-funded student union claims Ford government is overstepping autonomy of student groups

The Breakdown: The CFS–Ontario’s legal challenge against the Student Choice Initiative

The Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario (CFS–O), along with the York Federation of Students, launched a legal challenge against the Ontario government’s Student Choice Initiative (SCI) back in May. 

The SCI, originally announced in January by Merrilee Fullerton, the former Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU), was part of a broad set of changes to postsecondary funding that requires universities to provide an opt-out option to students for non-essential incidental fees. 

Postsecondary institutions are required to implement the opt-out option for the upcoming fall semester or face a possible reduction in funding. U of T’s online opt-out system for non-essential incidental fees is live on ACORN, in compliance with the Ontario government’s guidelines.

In an email to The Varsity, Tanya Blazina, Team Lead, Issues Management and Media Relations for the MTCU, wrote, “as this matter is now before the courts, it would be inappropriate for us to comment at this time.”

The legal challenge

“The government, particularly, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities doesn’t have the authority to impose a policy upon the memorandum of understanding between the student unions and the college and university administrations,” the National Executive Representative for the CFS–O, Kayla Weiler, said to the The Varsity in an interview.

Weiler also added that the collection and remittance of student society fees is determined democratically through student referenda and covered in the memorandum of understanding between the university administration and student associations.

Citing section seven of the Ontario College of Applied Arts and Technology Act, Weiler accused the provincial government of undermining the autonomy of student organizations through the SCI, which inhibits the ability of student governing bodies to collect fees. 

In addition, Weiler added that Fullerton misled students to believe that they would be able to save money by opting out of incidental fees, as the highest fees are still considered mandatory. 

At U of T, undergraduate Arts & Science students can opt-out of about 10 per cent of their total incidental fees, totalling around $50 to $70 depending on their college and campus.

What now?

In an interview with The Varsity, Nelson Wiseman, Director of the Canadian Studies Program and Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto, expressed doubts about the CFS–O winning their legal challenge.

“My impression is that the students are going to lose this case.” 

However, Wiseman also added that the courts can make unexpected decisions, citing a judge in September that blocked Premier Doug Ford’s reduction of the Toronto City Council.

Multiple student organizations, including the University of Toronto Students’ Union and multiple college and student societies have also responded to the SCI by forming the ChooseUofT campaign at the St. George campus.

Varsity Blues athletes and teams to look out for

There are many new faces on several Varsity Blues teams, all looking to make an impact this season

Varsity Blues athletes and teams to look out for

With a new school year on the horizon come brand new seasons of U of T sports — and there’s a lot to look out for. Whether in basketball, football, or hockey, the Varsity Blues athletics programs provide a platform to showcase the accomplishments of student athletes throughout the university. Watching Varsity Blues games is also a great way to spend time on campus by cheering on fellow students and peers. Here are some of the top teams and athletes to look out for in the 2019–2020 school year: 

Men’s hockey

Seeking redemption for last year’s round-one playoff loss to the Ryerson Rams, the Varsity Blues hockey team will be looking for outstanding play from the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Male Rookie of the Year-nominee David Thomson, a forward who finished his last season with the Blues with nine goals and 16 assists. Expect another great season from Captain Aidan Wallace, who teamed up with Thomson this past summer to deliver a bronze-medal finish for Canada at the International University Sports Federation Winter Universiade in Russia. 

Women’s hockey

As the focus turns to a new season, the women’s hockey program has a lot to be excited about, with the addition of four new first-year forwards: Natasha Athanasakos, Lauren Ball, Lauren Hancock, and Nikki McDonald. With a few key players graduating, including Clara Benson Honour Award-nominee Kassie Roache, the team will look to these new players to provide energy and speed across the lineup. 

Men’s football

With new offensive coordinator Irv Daymond, who coached the Laurier Golden Hawks for six years, and top national quarterback prospect Kinsale Philip set to join the team for the 2019 season, the Varsity Blues men’s football team looks to rebound after a disastrous 0–8 season. In 2017, Philip helped his high school team — the New Westminster Hyacks — win the AAA British Columbia provincial championship title. The Blues are hoping he can continue this success throughout the rest of his university career. 

Women’s swimming

After their strong performances in the 2019 FINA world championships in Gwangju, South Korea, a new Canadian records for medals was set by U of T alum Kylie Masse and current U of T swimmer Rebecca Smith. It’s safe to say the team is a part of a golden generation for swimming in Canada. Look out for events throughout the year leading up to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, where Masse and others hope to defend their spot on the podium. 

Men’s basketball

Fresh off an inspiring offseason, courtesy of the Toronto Raptors, the Varsity Blues men’s basketball team will be entering this season with one goal: playoffs. Second-year player Iñaki Alvarez, who averaged 12.9 points per game and garnered recognition for his significant contributions as a first-year student, will look to build on his strong start and help the Blues contend in the OUA East division.

The problem with specialization in young athletes

Can playing less basketball actually be the key to a healthier career?

The problem with specialization in young athletes

A “performance paradox,” as Dr. Mike Clark — founder of the movement efficiency and injury prevention program Fusionetics — calls it, has been a recent topic of discussion amongst NBA circles. The fact of the matter is that the newer generations of NBA players are experiencing an unprecedented decline in musculoskeletal stability and an upsurge in biomechanical problems relative to their predecessors. 

The culprit for these performance defects? Specialization: the tendency of athletes and their parents to remain fixated on a single sport all year round while neglecting other sports. 

Dr. Neeru Jayanthi, Associate Director of the Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship at the Emory University School of Medicine, considers children to be specialized in a particular sport if they can identify their primary sport, train in it for more than eight months a year, and have ever quit a different sport in order to better focus on their primary sport. 

Though specialization may sound harmless or even prestigious and impressive, Jayanthi reports that children who are characterized as ‘highly specialized’ in a single sport may have a 125 per cent greater risk of experiencing overuse injuries, particularly cartilage and ligament injuries, relative to unspecialized children. Similarly, David Bell, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Director of Injury in Sport Laboratory, and a team of researchers, found that highly specialized high school athletes are over twice as likely to suffer lower joint injuries, such as around the hips or knees, relative to their unspecialized counterparts.

Can anyone be blamed for this situation? Top athletes in major sports are some of the highest-income earners. 

Simply put, the motivation behind these high levels of specialization at such an early age likely stems from the allure of lucrative athletic careers. Parents, coaches, and athletes alike all push for a great extent of sport-specific practice to attract the attention of scouts and talent evaluators who can advance the athlete’s career goals.

Though sound in logic, the route of early child sport specialization comes with varying consequences. Clark offers an analogy to describe the contemporary athlete: the athlete is like a car with a carefully-crafted and powerful engine, but one that lacks suspension and braking, thereby making the engine futile as it can never be used to full potential. In other words, as skilled as modern athletes may be, their bodies, particularly their ankles, hips, and core, are broken down to the point where they may never be able to demonstrate their full range of athletic skills.

In response to this growing biomechanical epidemic, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and USA Basketball released guidelines for youth basketball players to follow in hopes of minimizing developmental injuries. These guidelines ask parents and coaches to delay specialization in youth basketball until the child reaches 14 years of age, limit high-volume training, mandate rest from organized basketball for at least one day per week, and authorize an extended leave from organized basketball during the off-season.

However, issues still remain. The NBA has not yet managed to get other major North American sporting bodies, namely the NFL, MLB, and NHL, to co-sign onto its guidelines. In other words, the NFL, MLB, and NHL have yet to address the severity of specialization in youth sports, which may undermine the message that the NBA is trying to put out. Additionally, there are no adequate means of enforcing such a specific set of instructions upon the entire youth basketball landscape. The mantra of ‘giving your very all to your craft,’ as glorified by Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, will seamlessly reign supreme over any anecdotes offered by commissioner Silver. However, kudos should still be given to the NBA for pioneering and mobilizing the movement against specialization.