Time to ease up on kids’ workloads
Dear parents and coaches:
Relax, back off, chill, give the kids a break, before they break.
Many of us are pushing too hard and the kids suffer. The kids are not indestructible. Mentally, physically, and emotionally they can suffer, be hurt without telling anyone, and get injured permanently because we, the adults, are too focused on our own goals being attained through the athletic accomplishments of our children.
Parents want the best for their children as do coaches, but sometimes the need of wins, traveling teams, all-conference teams, “club teams,” scholarships, “making the pros,” and “the big bucks” creates too much ugly pressure on everyone involved.
I am writing this from three perspectives. Most objectively I have been a physical therapist treating adolescent injuries for 31 years. I am a parent of a teenager and I have also been a community league coach.
The problem is getting worse … not better.
Overuse and fatigue injuries are my primary concern. Recently, the violence of our society has been illustrated in our own community youth basketball league – the adults, not the kids. Remember the NBA riot.
Training intensity these days is incredible. Twelve months a year or you don’t make the team. Multi-sport athletes are really in jeopardy of fatigue, because they not only go from sport to sport, but are being asked to play “club” in one sport, in addition to the school team in either the same sport or a different sport.
I am all for cross training to avoid injury, but not full-time training and competition in one sport and then add practice and competition of another sport during the same period.
Dance and gymnastics are much the same if not worse. They get away with it because people think of the beauty, think again.
The research is out there and is too plentiful to mention in this letter. Teen females are particularly at risk with a rate of six-fold more knee injuries than their male counterparts. Injury rates and psychological burnout increase with too busy a training schedule. Other parts of a balanced life and education are also excluded. Family time, vacations, and simple playtime are missed.
Why all the drugs, caffeine, performance enhancements? Do you think it starts in elementary school? You bet!
So, chill, back off. One sport at time! One team at a time! Have an ice cream. Miss a practice when they have a virus!
Rest creates improved performance. Stop the competitive juices once in a while. It helps! Taper before competition. Be realistic!
How many of our beautiful children have played in the NBA NFL, major leagues or Olympics since 1980?
How many get hurt and don’t heal properly, because we push them too hard?
I see them and so do surgeons, pediatricians and family practice doctors.
Walt Abbey, a physical therapist and a father, lives in Grass Valley.
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