Playing Too Much Sports

It seems nowadays and not uncommon to see young athletes playing in organized sports leagues 365 days out of the year. Parents obviously want to see their young athlete develop into a better athlete as playing in multiple sports does help in developing a well-rounded athlete compared to specializing in one sport. But the common trend is for young athletes to play in 2 and sometimes 3 sports and/or leagues at the same time where practices and games are always overlapping throughout the year. This potentially leads to many young athletes playing in 4 to 8 sports leagues throughout the course of the year.

Playing in too many sports throughout the year is not healthy for a young athlete from a physical standpoint, but also they are not really learning and developing better skills at their sports. Instead of learning and getting better at one sport at one time uninterrupted, their becoming average athletes in all of their sports – a jack of all trades, master of none. Also, if young athletes are playing in too many sports and in too many leagues throughout the year, they are not really getting any type of an off-season to just be a kid which could potentially lead to burnout. Young athletes in grade school should be limited to 3 sports and playing only 1 at a time for the entire year. And finally, just because playing multiple sports is better than specializing, young athletes are not really being taught by their sport coaches proper movement skills and how to get into better positions like jumping and landing, speed deceleration, mobility, coordination and balance which is vital in building neuromuscular strength helping reduce potential injuries.


Sport Specialization

On the other end of the spectrum you have young athletes specializing in one sport year round believing that playing only one sport will develop better skills for that sport. Unfortunately that is not always the case with young athletes as specialization could potentially do more harm than good because it usually leads to movement restrictions and musculoskeletal imbalances. When young athletes specialize in one sport they’re limiting their movement patterns and skills by performing and repeating the same movements over and over. Repeating the same movements for long periods of time can cause fatigued, overused and underdeveloped muscles leading to potential injuries. Also, young athletes who do specialize in one sport early on (grade school level) can eventually be passed by the young athletes who play multiple sports because they have limited their movement patterns and skills compared to multiple sport athletes.

It’s recommended that young athletes in grade school not play more than 6 months in one sport during the year which provides 6 months off from that sport which goes against many club coaches who want 12 month commitments from their players. High school athletes should not play more than 8 months in one sport during the year. Consider this; professional athletes play only 8 to 9 months out of the year in their sport with the last month usually being playoffs. The difference with professionals is, their sport is their career; they’re not going to school and having to do homework, their more developed physically and mentally and they have more time to rest and repair their bodies throughout their season compared to an athlete in grade school and high school. So stop treating your young athlete “Your Child” like a professional athlete playing year round in one sport, it’s not healthy. 

Not enough General Physical Preparation (GPP)

Young athletes are not receiving the physical preparation development they need to become better overall athletes due to playing too much sports and specialization, the lack of physical education in schools and general outside activities of “play” and too much technology of computers and video games. Also, as a society we are living a more sedentary lifestyle which creates numerous issues for the human body especially for young athletes who really don’t “play” as much as they used to leading to less flexibility, bad mobility, coordination, balance and agility issues. And the biggest issue is young athletes are not building any type of strength which is the foundation for everything and without strength they’ll struggle as an athlete – period.

Young athletes have such a small window of opportunity to develop many skill sets that if they don’t develop it at an early age it will take twice as long to learn as they get older such as coordination which starts to slow down around the age of 13 years old. Between the ages of around 11 to 14 years old, young athletes start to get slower because as they grow their tendons get tighter reducing their range of motion because bone grows faster than the muscle putting a tremendous strain on the musculature. If young athletes don’t address these issues things get worse and worse as they get older becoming average to bad athletes.

With all the lack of general physical preparation something has to give eventually which is usually an injury. Roughly 80% of all injuries in sports are non-contact which means they could have been prevented if preventative steps were taken in developing the proper strength and skills that are necessary for sports in the first place. It really comes down to the parents caring about their child and taking action getting them help and then the young athlete being motivated and making a commitment to get better improving as an athlete.