I just read "How much is too much hockey for youth players?" from The Hockey News through a blog post by Mike Boyle, and it is shocking! Living in an area where hockey and soccer are very popular, it is incredible that schedules like this are the norm. Take a minute to read this.
Aside from the obvious concerns about injury risk through repetitive motion, what about the mental health of these kids? How are they able to think in school and focus on their studies when they spend hours a day playing or practicing with their team? It is even worse considering that most of them will never go on to play at the next level, even the ones who are not completely burned out.
Currently, we are in a mindset that if some is good, more is better. The problem is that more is worse. In an effort to improve and win, so many kids are being asked to sacrifice their physical, mental and emotional development. They are not getting a chance to physically recover day to day, they are not getting the mental rest needed to perform well and they are spending so much time practicing that they are missing out on the social aspects of being a kid.
Coaches and parents are pushing so hard that they are forgetting that it takes time to learn new skills and that practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. These kids need a complete approach to their training in order to allow them to fully mature as athletes and young adults, and playing the same sport all the time is not the way to do it. The best thing for some of these kids is rest, both mental and physical. The next best thing is free, unstructured play. I cannot remember the last time that I saw a group of children playing together in a backyard or a field. Encourage them to go meet up with some friends, play some games for the pure love of it, then go home, take a nap and eat dinner.
Since this pattern seems to be an international epidemic, how do you educate your coaches, athletes and parents on the benefits of rest, recovery and other sports? Do you think there is value to playing one sport all year long or should athletes vary their activities?
Tim Koba, ATC, CSCS, PES, CES, CMT