Over the years, the landscape of youth sports has changed. No longer are most children playing many sports recreationally, allowing them to decide which they like best. Instead, many now play one sport year round, which is not always the best thing for youth athletes.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAC) has issued a report that says children are getting injured as well as burned out from specializing in a single sport. The injuries tend to pile up for children that play one sport exclusively, as the same muscles and body parts are being used repeatedly. While this may be a benefit in the beginning, as training specific parts of the body exclusively can result in that part being strengthened, repeated stress on a body part can cause it to deteriorate and break down, increasing the likelihood of injuries occurring.
Children burning out and quitting sports tends to occur when an athlete does the same thing repeatedly until it is no longer enjoyable; rather, it is viewed as work and is encouraged by parents because it is good “for the future.” Here is where a problem arises, as parents are dictating how and what their children should play, instead of the players themselves making the decision. Perhaps the athlete in question is tired of playing soccer and would like to take a break by playing volleyball or tennis. In a logical scenario, the player would decide what they want to play and make a decision. Unfortunately, in the world of today, this type of decision isn’t lightly made, as the player ends up missing out on time with their “main team,” damaging their chances of receiving a scholarship or accolade for their performance in that one sport.
Additionally, according to the AAP, this burnout can have a negative effect on the lives of the athletes outside of sports. Dr. Nirav Pandya, director of sports medicine for the Sports Medicine Clinic in Walnut Creek, California, said that medical professionals at his clinic notice young athletes not only having problems in their sports but also with their homework and social life.
The burden of satisfying their parents and coaches becomes too much in some cases, interfering with the mental state of the overtired young athletes. To combat this, it is best if the children are given the option of what they want to play at a young age, not specializing in one sport until later in life. This gives them freedom to choose their sport and to enjoy the diversion from everyday life.