The Sports Doc

Youth Sports: More Intense than Ever Before

By DR. CHRIS STANKOVICH
Friday May 17, 2013 11:03 AM
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Dr. Chris Stankovich

If you are an adult involved in youth sports (either as a parent of a young athlete or a youth sports coach), you already know that kids today are a lot more involved in sports than you were when you were a kid.  In fact, based on the kids I see regularly at my practice, I would argue that today’s youth athletes are even busier today with sports than kids were from just a few years ago. More practices, more games, more trainers, more camps, more travel leagues, and more specialists to help with diet, exercise, and psychology — that’s the lifestyle being more commonly experienced by youth athletes today (Sport Success 360).

Many of the kids I work with decided long ago to “specialize” in one sport, and increasingly more kids are playing and training year-round (this includes both sport specialists and kids who play multiple sports).  Oftentimes these kids go immediately from school to practice, and sometimes even go to a second practice right after that (or some other specialist to help them with their sport), and don’t make it home most nights until well after 8PM.  On top of that, some young athletes these days also have morning practices, too.  Talk about the need for sport psychologists to help with mental toughness!

Is all of this sports training good?  Well, that’s something for each individual to decide — but I would urge you to consider the following questions when deciding upon an intense sports schedule like this for your child:

  • Physical exhaustion - Is your child’s body breaking down from all the competition and training?
     
  • Mental exhaustion (burnout) – Does your child struggle with motivation, and often feel mentally wiped out from always being on the go?
     
  • Missed opportunities – While sports are certainly an important life experience, is your child missing out on other important academic and social endeavors because there is no time left over to do those things?
     
  • Sport realities - Do you know the realities of how few kids actually earn “full-ride” athletic scholarships?  And how only a select few of those athletes actually go on to play pro sports?

While an intense sports schedule might sound crazy to you, millions of adults each year fall prey to this lifestyle, and often wonder how they let it get to that point.  In psychology, the Abilene Paradox might help explain this phenomenon.  In many families, the individual family members often think privately  that the youth sports schedule is intense (sometimes too intense), yet everyone in the family still goes along with the demanding scheduling, falsely assuming that everyone is “on board” with the idea.  The reality, however, is that the family has been caught in a trap of false assumptions that often do not become unearthed until something bad happens, in which case family members then agree that they originally thought the sports schedule was a little over the top from the start.

This summer, take a close look at your child’s athletic schedule and decide if it’s the best fit for your family.  While these decisions are not usually easy ones to tackle, they are important, and definitely worth your time.

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Dr. Chris Stankovich is a graduate of The Ohio State University and the Founder of Advanced Human Performance Systems, an athletic counseling and human performance enhancement center. 

For more information visit his website: www.drstankovich.com

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