Spend Less Time on Your Sport, and More on Being an Athlete
Being in the private sector of the strength and conditioning field, we have the privilege of talking to many different coaches and the parents of many young athletes. In doing so, I’ve started to notice a promising trend from talking to them; they feel like their kids are doing too much of the same. In recent years we’ve seen the money making machine of AAU sports and sport-specific coaching take off, and at this point it’s become borderline ridiculous.
Why does any 10-year-old need to be throwing a baseball in December to prepare for their spring baseball season or a 12-year-old need to play soccer year-round to “maximize their potential”? Unfortunately, many parents are fed the same garbage that their kid, regardless of sport, needs to practice more or take private lessons in the offseason so that they can “keep up” with the other kids. Who are they trying to keep up with exactly?
But they might get a college scholarship…
Have that many parents really been sold on this idea by their children’s coaches? Do that many parents feel that their child will get a “full ride” at the school they want to go to? The numbers say that they won’t. According to the NCAA, there are 7.4 million high school student-athletes, of which only 6% will play sports at the collegiate level. Playing at the collegiate level doesn’t mean you got a scholarship either. Only 33% of college athletes get a scholarship, and most of those are only partial scholarships.
What about going pro?
If those numbers seem slim, take a look at becoming a pro! The NCAA estimates that only 2% of their 460,000 student athletes get a chance to play pro sports, that’s 9,200. That number represents .12% of all high school student athletes, or about 1 in 1000. And let’s remember that we’re not talking about 1 in 1000 high school students, we’re talking about 1 in 1000 high school athletes. To put that in perspective, most high schools don’t even have 1,000 students, let alone 1,000 athletes. Chances are that your kid’s high school won’t even have a future pro athlete roaming the halls.
What am I supposed to take away from this?
This is not meant to discourage any parent from enrolling their child in sports or to discourage any athlete from having those dreams. Most young athletes dream about being the next Tom Brady or Simone Biles, and those dreams are an important part of growing up. However, a kid’s relationship with sports should be one that they enjoy and doesn’t put their physical or mental well-being at risk.
Playing one sport consistently year-round leads to over use and over development of certain muscle groups and more wear and tear on the same joints, as well as mental burnout. Mixing things up a little bit allows areas that have been overused to recover while developing other movement patterns and utilizing other muscle groups that may be neglected in some sports. It also allows them to develop a sense of physical awareness and multiple skill sets that have carryover to other sports and physical tasks. The break from a given sport also makes them yearn to play and practice it as the same season nears the following year.
What is the best way to keep my young athlete healthy?
There are three things that every young athlete should be doing to stay healthy and avoid injury.
1) Mix up the sports that you play.
Playing one sport all year is much more likely to land you in a surgeon’s office than it is to land you a scholarship. Up until the age of 16, kids should be exposed to as many sports and activities as possible.
2) Get into a strength and conditioning program.
Even working out once per week will give kids the opportunity to not only build a base level of strength, but also learn proper movement patterns and practice them in a controlled environment.
3) Be active outside of sports!
Young athletes should be playing games with their friends outside, going on hikes with their family, participating in gym class, and spending time climbing, running, biking, swimming, swinging and jumping on their own to develop a well-balanced body and skill set.
Steve Zarriello is a Certified Strength and Conditoning Specialist, TPI Certified coach, and the owner of Olympia Fitness and Performance, located in Cranston, RI. He has been training clients of all different ages, abilities and backgrounds to help them reach their specific goals for almost 15 years. His primary focus is on working with golfers to help improve their ability to play the game and keep them pain free.