The sporting adage “if you’re good enough, you’re old enough” has been repeated countless times since Welsh rugby legend Gareth Edwards first uttered it in 1968.

It was being bandied about again last week because of the appearance of Bella Simoes in the US Women’s Open qualifying golf tournament in Florida.

Simoes is nine. Yes, nine. Still in primary school.

The Brazilian was one of more than 2,000 entries who battled for a place at Pebble Beach this summer. Unsurprisingly, she was the youngest entrant by some distance.

Her headline-making first shot was impressive, a smooth swing then a drive smashed down the first fairway.

But the story ended just a day after she hit that historic shot when she failed to progress in the qualifying event, finishing tied 59th in a field of 67 in her specific tournament.

Despite recording a score of 23 over par following rounds of 85 and 82 – she finished 33 shots behind winner Lindy Duncan – Simoes attracted considerable praise, with Australian pro Scott Hend joining the cheerleading, tweeting: “Holy crap… U serious… 9 year old trying to Q for the US Open… That’s awesome stuff…”

But really, is it awesome? Yes, it’s eye-catching. And historic. But is it really of any benefit to such a young child in the long run to be on such a public platform as US Open qualifying, knowing the attention they will attract and the scrutiny they will be under, both in this first event and in future?

Of course it is not.

And it is in these cases, when dealing with kids as young as Simoes, that the saying “if you’re good enough, you’re old enough” does not apply.

Many sports have official age limits for exactly this reason. To throw a kid into the fire-pit that is senior, elite sport will, almost without exception, not only fail to benefit them but likely have a severely detrimental effect.

One of the most famous uses of Edwards’ saying was in relation to US footballer Freddy Adu who, famously, was labelled “the next Pele” when he signed a

professional contract with Washington DC at the age of 14 in 2004. He was then barely heard of, becoming the very definition of a journeyman.

The list of young athletes who were hailed in a similar manner, and thrown into the elite sporting bear pit at a very young age, is lengthy. And almost none, with a very few exceptions, have thrived.

It seems obvious, from the outside at least, that even if a kid is an especially precocious talent, the negatives of quickly pushing them to compete with battle-hardened adults far outweigh the positives.

After all, elite sport entails far more than merely hitting a golf ball or kicking a football.

Elite sport is a brutal, unforgiving environment and one that many in their 20s and 30s struggle to handle. So in what world do parents think it’s a good place to throw their nine-year-old into such a competition?

If a kid has what it takes to make it in sport, they will make it without starting their professional journey at nine or 10.

And in many cases, actively holding them back, as was the case with the Williams sisters, who were well into their teens before they played a competitive tennis tournament, is far more beneficial to their long-term development.

Every athlete is different. But what remains the same is how difficult a child will find the cut-throat environment of elite sport and that throwing them into it too early will almost always do more damage than good.


The announcement that Scottish Athletics will receive a significant increase in investment from Sportscotland is a timely boost for a sport that, UK-wide, is struggling.

Within Scotland, however, athletics is thriving. At both the elite and grassroots level, things are as good, if not better, than they have ever been.

Scotland has several world-class athletes and in terms of participation figures, which are most visible when it comes to the impressive numbers in the cross-country championships over the winter, the sport here is in a very healthy place.

The increased investment coincides with Scottish Athletics launching a new strategy, “Building a Culture of Success”, which outlines how the sport will be developed over the next four years.

But while the sport is thriving here, the wider picture is far less rosy. Last week it was revealed that UK Athletics have applied for £300,000 from UK Sport to help cover the costs of the Diamond League meet in July amid fears that the highest-profile athletics event in Britain this year could lead to losses of almost £500,000.

This highlights what a dire state the sport is in UK-wide, with it well-known that the British governing body are in dire straits financially.

In the light of these revelations about UK Athletics, it is even more impressive that their Scottish equivalent are going from strength to strength.

We are, of course, a much smaller pond but we also, historically, have had far fewer resources and so for Scottish Athletics to be in such a healthy state from the base to the top is impressive.

There are, of course, no guarantees that this increased funding heading Scottish Athletics’ way will automatically continue the improvement, but the signs are that the sport here has many more good times to look forward to over the next few years.