Are year around sports bad for our youth?

Today’s sports are increasingly becoming specific, more intense and now, year around. From AAU basketball, select soccer to youth football. Some coaches say that training specifically with one sport will make the athlete that much better. Year round athletes can become elite at their sports because of the repetition, game time scenarios and coaching. These athletes can increase their chances of getting a scholarship and eventually become a professional superstar!

Lets take a look at the facts. One interesting article that was written by Grant Hill who states that specialized athletes suffer from mental & physical burnout, loss of influence from other coaches and loss of social contact. Wiersma (2000) speculated that specialization would limit range of skills and overall motor development. Another article written by Ewing & Seefeldt, 1996; Gould, 1987; Weiss & Petlichkoff, 1989 have shown that there was a large number of athletes who dropped out because of lack of fun and sometimes transferred to another sport all together. Vern Gambetta who is one of the greatest Speed Coaches out there says that the broader the athletes exposure, the broader his motor development range. There are also studies showing the concussion rates in soccer, football and basketball are growing. Concussion rates seem to be higher in females compared to males according to the Journal of Athletic Training. Once one athlete has had a concussion, they are 3 to 6 times higher to receive another one compared to those who have never had one. One alarming study shows that 30-80 percent of athletes who received a concussion had post-concussion symptoms 3 months after being injured, 1 in 7 had symptoms a year after. So if many athletes are still having symptoms weeks and months after injury then why are we still putting them through the same intense training without a break?

So what do we do when a child wants to play the same sport in the offseason? We as parents and responsible coaches need to step up and educate the athlete on long term effects of injury due to prolonged seasons and let the athlete pursue other sports or hobbies. Parents and coaches need to look at the evidence and research. All evidence shows that athletes have a high percentage of suffering from injury, fatigue, burn out and/or mental stress. Parents think that if they let their child play the same sport year round that they will become great and receive a scholarship. Coaches think that if they have their athletes play year round that the team will have more unity and have better chemistry from season to season. So who really wants the athletes to play? The parents/coaches or the athlete themselves?

We need to let our children be children. Open them up to new activities. Let them relax from the stress of a specific sport. Let kids work on getting stronger, faster and reduce their risk of injury through weight training. How can a football player become faster when all he does is jog laps around the field as part of his conditioning? How can a basketball player jump higher when all he or she does is shoot 100 baskets each day? How can soccer players reduce their risk of injury if he or she is only practicing dribbling and corner shots? Working on your game is a big contributor to becoming a better athlete but I would say that to be a well-rounded athlete you must be open to other avenues of athleticism not just one sport!

Here are a few links of articles/resources-

http://www.momsteam.com/health-safety/concussion-rates-high-school-sports

http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/4422/

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/40364616?uid=3739704&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=56210182073

http://www.questia.com/googleScholar.qst?docId=5002496722

http://www.functionalpathtrainingblog.com/youth-sports/page/2/

These two articles are great resources

http://strengthcoachblog.com/2008/10/24/youth-sports-early-specialization/

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/19/sports/ncaabasketball/19athlete.html?pagewanted=2&_r=2

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