Keeping the Sports Mania in Check

If your child plays sports, it is hard to ignore the training mania that has become the norm. Travel teams, full weekends out of town for tournaments and daily training dominate the seasons for many families. Is it done for the intrinsic love of the sport? Maybe. But more often it is driven by the pressure to specialize in one sport early and the hope that the kid will play in college/get a scholarship or become a professional. Does this plan work? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), no it doesn’t. Instead it leads to early burn out and injuries. Studies show that most Division 1 NCAA athletes played multiple sports in high school. As you finalize your fall schedule, consider the latest recommendation from the AAP on sports for kids.

From the AAP:

  1. The primary focus of sports for young athletes should be to have fun and learn lifelong physical activity skills.
  2. Participating in multiple sports, at least until puberty, decreases the chances of injuries, stress, and burnout in young athletes.
  3. For most sports, specializing in a sport later (ie, late adolescence) may lead to a higher chance of the young athlete accomplishing his or her athletic goals.
  4. Early diversification and later specialization provides for a greater chance of lifetime sports involvement, lifetime physical fitness, and possibly elite participation.
  5. If a young athlete has decided to specialize in a single sport, discussing his or her goals to determine whether they are appropriate and realistic is important. This discussion may involve helping the young athlete distinguish these goals from those of the parents and/or coaches.
  6. It is important for parents to closely monitor the training and coaching environment of “elite” youth sports programs14 and be aware of best practices for their children’s sports.
  7. Having at least a total of 3 months off throughout the year, in increments of 1 month, from their particular sport of interest will allow for athletes’ physical and psychological recovery. Young athletes can still remain active in other activities to meet physical activity guidelines during the time off.
  8. Young athletes having at least 1 to 2 days off per week from their particular sport of interest can decrease the chance for injuries.
  9. Closely monitoring young athletes who pursue intensive training for physical and psychological growth and maturation as well as nutritional status is an important parameter for health and well-being.

Read more:

August 2016
From the American Academy of Pediatrics

Clinical Report

Sports Specialization and Intensive Training in Young Athletes

Joel S. Brenner, COUNCIL ON SPORTS MEDICINE AND FITNESS