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Sports specifying a child at an early age

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Showing 26-50 of 54 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 3, 2007 3:48:40 PM PDT
Right, J. Sterner! Parents should me most careful when their child isn't having fun anymore, or when they themselves get disappointed because their child didn't "win". I was a team physician for Pop Warner football, and I also handled the on-field training duties one autumn a few years back. I was most interested in why the head coach wanted to play his son at quarterback when his son's ankles were so badly and chronically sprained he could barely walk, let alone run or plant to make a pass. His son was so relieved when I arrived since taping both ankles was the first relief he had had in weeks, perhaps months. He didn't dare complain because his father wouldn't have it. I approached his mother and she was simply in denial. I finally confronted the father/coach and he threatened to have me removed. I complained to the league president and later resigned. I might have called D.S.S. and made a complaint of child abuse, but action was soon taken against the father by the league. He was banned from coaching any sport for quite some time for another incident.

Interesting was that his son was more interested in what I was doing to help injuries than he was in football. His son is now a certified athletic trainer. Bad story turned good.

Interesting too is that when I read about "sports-specific" training, I am amused. the only "sports-specific" training I know of is the sport itself. I think it's a very good idea to expose children to all types of movement and sports, from dance, games and play to organized sports. They are all important. A variety of movement patterns is necessary to provide a healthy experience. So focusing on only ONE sport is generally not a good idea, even if the child shows some aptitude or talent. Besides, if a child really is that good, the responsible parents will quickly learn the value of "cross-training", where the missing movement patterns are introduced anyway. For example, if the child is a gifted runner (like a Steve Prefontaine, say), then movement patterns that incorporate lateral movements not provided by running are necessary. I could write a book just about that (actually, I am writing a book about that right now). The important thing for children is, first and foremeost, FUN! After that, it's human movement pattern training through games and play, and then drills and more difficult exercises as the child ages and begins to enjoy it at a higher, more developed level.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 11, 2007 8:06:21 PM PDT
There is no sure answer as it were differ among the child, physical and mental developement etc. Frankly it would depend more upon how the parents and the coaches envolved with the child handles the situation. My concern would be more towards the adults than the child. The important criteria would be if the child is brought up slowley and monitored slowly and smartly providiong there is not a mediacal reason. Great I see no problem with it.I have taught and coachee forr over 55 years and have studied European programs from the former Eastern block where it is done but planned and monitored closely. In my experience of working with all ages in the USA it is not handled very well in the young groups for sports, physically, mechanically or mentally the three important sciences of athletics.WMW

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 11, 2007 8:41:34 PM PDT
To Rain
I never did like the term "burn Out" in my cioaching career. To me more young athlete suffer from training and too much competition without proper recovery from each. Too many competitions and races without proper recovery is damaginging.Recovery between season is impotant. WMW

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 16, 2007 9:36:24 AM PDT
has anybody out there ever gotten their child a playskool tee ball set? usually recieved between the ages of 3 and 8...this teaches the child the important skill of swinging a baseball bat. obviously if your child shows above average interest..what do you do next? you may try to teach him/her to hit better by saying "keep your eye on the ball'. then you may add base running if the interest is still there...and maybe even teach them what a single..double..triple..home run is. this is what has progreesed with my 3 1/2 yr old son. it started out as hitting then led to baserunning and then to descriptions of types of hits including..balls..strikes..fouls..and "youre out!". always done with special attention given to his interest in what we were doing. as long as youre not trying to train him for major leagues or the olympics and you adjust your playing/teaching to their interest and always with a smile on YOUR harm done. get out there and hit a home run with your lil one. tony

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2007 11:35:53 PM PDT
John Doe says:
In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with specifying a sport! I'll bet you a paycheck any parent who played sports will introduce their favorite sport to their kids as the first option.

The problem with youth sports today is parents. Youth sports are NOT child care, a way for mom and dad to live vicariously through the children, nor a substitution for proper parenting.

I coach ODP soccer. That abbreviation has become "Over Demanding Parents." On more than one occasion, I've had kids cuss my assistants out, parents take swings at me or the refs, and had the police come out to escort adults away. Many leagues across the nation have gone to "silent slide line" rules and separating parents from athletes during competition. So before anyone reads the academia posted by J. Sterner, parents need to realize they need to nurture and support their kids and let the coaches provide their expertise. Take care of that and everything else falls in place!!!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2007 11:49:45 PM PDT
John Doe says:
"and then drills and more difficult exercises as the child ages and begins to enjoy it at a higher, more developed level." --Cycling Critic

Want to ruin a sport for a young child? Introduce the "D" word to them at an early age. That's right "drills"... The proper technique throughout the age groups is to begin with movement exercises, then demonstrate/introduce basic skills and then making up a game which emphasizes those skills. After a while, make the games more complex and challenging as the skill set progresses.

Line the kids up in drills and you've lost them! Fun and drills cannot coexist -- this isn't the 70s anymore. All of the successful youth programs around the world leverage this method.

With drills, you line the kids up and they get a couple of contacts with the ball every minute or so while they wait their turn and watch their teammates -- not very much fun. When you make games out of skills, you maximize contact with the ball and interaction with teammates in a short amount of time... and THAT is what develops players more effectively!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 21, 2007 1:18:03 PM PDT
Most people will say you should diversify your child and expose him/her to many different sports/activities as a young child. Growing up, I had gym teachers who emphatically said I should not specialize in one sport, even in high school. I completely agree with this advice. However, and this is a big however....if your child really wishes to advance in one sport and he/she expresses that interest himself/herself, I believe you should let it happen. At 12 or 13, to really reach the top of the game, and by top of the game, I mean competing at a State or National level, one needs to focus on that game. In tennis, a sport which I played and based my book, The Lure of the Big Game, upon, it is nearly impossible to reach a high level without, unfortunately, dropping other sports, at the latest, by age 13-14. I address these concepts in great detail in my book if anyone is interested, especially in tennis.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 21, 2007 1:33:59 PM PDT
Rain says:
Do you feel that some sports have a natural follow for participation with others ex: track & field, football or baseball. Tennis seems to be very consuming(I don't know that much about the sport except that parents are very aggressive almost hostile at times when I have observed practices and training.)
I can't help but believe any sport can be enhanced by the participation in another.What are the stats on pros in all sports that they did participate in at least one other sport and even went pro in a sport that wasn't considered "their" Sport.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 21, 2007 1:45:30 PM PDT
Rain says:
I agree with a necessary need for recovery, mental as well as physical. To many times we don't take into consideration the mental aspect of competing. There is a great build up mentally to be able to participate in sports (championships and playoffs) There should be ample time to relax from the pressure of competion.Playing just for the pure fun. My child (8)is always active but not always in a sport that requires a high level of excellence on her part.Those sports that are JUST for activity and fun she enjoys just as much as her main sport.Her main sport she loves is fun and she recieves the reward of a potential medal at championship time . You always have to consider the child as an individual and find what works for the good of the child. I think this can be gaged by their desire to participate when seasons and different sports come along.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 21, 2007 3:33:41 PM PDT
As I said, drills should not be introduced until the child ages and begins to enjoy [the sport] at a higher more developed level. I also said that making it fun was a priority. When I say child, I include all ages up to 18. So, we agree.

Fun is about play and games when children are younger. For older children, skills are introduced and in the mid- to later teens, drills are essential, depending on how you define that word.

Fun and drills absolutely can coexist, however, if the child is old enough. One does not have to "line kids up" to perform drills. My definition may not be the same as yours. We do functional circuit training with our varsity field hockey team and soccer team and the kids love it. Is it a "drill"? Perhaps maybe not by your definition. But they love it, and they're seeing their fitness and speed improve as a direct result. They are 16-17 year old children.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 22, 2007 4:51:12 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 22, 2007 4:54:45 PM PDT
J. Sterner says:
As a coach for many years myself, John Doe, I sympathize with you.

By the way, the academia I posted earlier addresses issues of nurturing and support. In my humble opinion, those areas are related cogent issues in ensuring that youngsters enjoy athletics.

Unfortunately, we have way too many well-intentioned, albeit unqualified, parents who take on the role of coaching their kids. There are many reasons why this is the case, but it is the case nonetheless; therefore, I offer those sources to parents of young athletes. Whether they coach them or not, there are invaluable insights that may gleened from the research.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 22, 2007 5:13:42 PM PDT
Rain says:
Hi Coach Sterner,
You are right,we parents often times are taking on the responsibilty,sometimes because we think we can do better job or sometimes because we don't want the coaching to discourage our children. So many reasons.

A new age of children in athletics has introduced a level of competion that many don't agree with but no one can stop the tide of "pro kids". It's always a balancing act.

I Always apreciate your insight and view.


In reply to an earlier post on Sep 28, 2007 5:54:38 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 28, 2007 6:02:51 PM PDT
Some children it appears know what they like and want early on. We are raising a 10 year old grandson who insisted he wanted to play hockey at 5. We just looked at each other. Finally at 6 1/2 he went thru a year of skating lessons. It was clear he loves to skate. He could have continued in figure skating but flat out stated "I learned for hockey. It's time for Hockey." He is a crack goalie, loves it. After season end he hauls us to free ice time skate and shoots. He has learned team spirit, how to lose, great work ethic and pride in himself and others. Other sports? Fishing! At 10 part of his costs are paid by us, summer work he does for neighbors, and teams who want him for his great attitude in the locker room as well as on the ice talent. He's a natural athlete but he picked his hockey. Hockey was new to us but I ended up writing a book for young players to read to and from the practices. "Hockey Legend Myth & Verse" under the pen name Artica Burr. Most parents we've met are not horror stories some are. We are on a team where all the kids are "I want to play" so it's a pleasure at practice and games.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 29, 2007 1:11:19 PM PDT
Rick S says:
There is some research out suggesting that children should play about 3 different sports before the age of 14/15 and then specialize.
There is some great information about this in a book called Flying Lessons:122 strategies to equip your child to soar into life, by Dr. Gregg Steinberg.
I just read it and it was fantastic.
Hank Yornite

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 30, 2007 4:39:55 PM PDT
Rain says:

Thanks for the book recommendation.I guess every case has it's own dynamic.Overall I think a parent could never go wrong introducing their child to many sporting activities. I have observed this interesting thing happening now where parents are saying that "my child is just having FUN with this sport or that sport it's not going to be SERIOUS" as if it's suppose to be at 7,10 or what ever age. It's like they are making excuses for their child enjoying the sport even if they aren't the best at it.

This posting question has been going on for months now and I have seen nothing but a balanced view given each parents experience.I think it is important for parents to know the statistics on children in sports then make decisions based on that information.Many are well intentioned but see other parents getting into the single sport thing and THINK that is what they should or have to do.

As a child I only did one sport that was track. I never really liked any other sport as a afterschool paricpant. ( I enjoyed many sports as part of school curriculm.) I was extremely good at it and I wanted to do it. My parents allowed this.The moment my body changed a bit with puberty and highschool distraction and...not being first all the time, I quit the sport. I really didn't know it was okay to take second if I was doing my best.REALLY .They may have said it but I don't remember getting that lesson driven home. So I stopped running at he end of 10th grade season. It didn't look like quiting to the bystander (it was) it looked like "other interests" My parents now tell me they were surprised at my choice but they didn't want this to be their dream but mine because, I had to do the work. The rest is history or not...:) I have a child much like me but even a more stand out sprinter and overall athlete as I am coming to find out with new sports she is participating in.I want to be balanced about track but let her know what the hard work and dedication can do for her life not just her sport.

I guess this posting question is of some interest. new people continue to read and comment.I think that is a good thing. I hope you will share more about the book you have recommended.


In reply to an earlier post on Jan 21, 2008 10:34:29 AM PST
Coach I Am says:
Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development argues that developing a superstar starts just the same as an average player and the rush to specialization is a mistake. Brian McCormick has an entire web site dedicated to the book and this philosophy:

Research from specialists in talent development like K. Anders Ericsson and Benjamin Bloom suggest that an early specialization is unnecessary. Josh Waitzkin's Art of Learning is another book which illustrates different aspects of the question.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 21, 2008 4:45:29 PM PST
Rain says:
HI Coach I Am,
Thanks so much for the reccomendations.I have learned a lot reading these post over the year it has been around.Every time I think we (participants) have a handle on the subject,there always seems to be a bit more to say and learn.

I can't wait to read the reccomendations.


In reply to an earlier post on Jan 22, 2008 9:43:27 AM PST
T. Wyrick says:
I agree with this posting. As a grandmother of four girls, I can see that they are of considerable different atheletic gifts. My advise is to never push and to introduce all atheletic activity with love and joy. Make it a bonding experience. Do not over focus on any activity that creates tension within the child, yet help them work on frustration generated by not being perfect the first time.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 28, 2008 9:59:46 AM PDT

I like your posts!

Again I am a volleyball coach. I can tell you in Europe the kids are specializing this young just to compete....they suggest to the kids what sport their body type is adapted to...they don't push it but suggest.

Second they key ingrediant that all coaches and parents must empahsis is ENJOYMENT. Every coach must try to create enjoyment with every skill practice....this is the only way to avoid burnout! I have 11 year old kids in my club that LOVE volleyball. To them its a game and its fun! Learning advanced skills is fun! You have to be real careful with how much you push.

A suggestion I have is to train everying in a game format. If you are learning a new skill keep score! Drilling is boring and the kids lose focus....introduce competition and the mind lights up!

Hope this helps!

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 28, 2008 6:26:14 PM PDT
Rain says:
Hi Eric,
Thanks for weighing in.I totally agree. We have to make the sports experience fun for our young ones. Recently my husband and I put our daughter on a team for this very reason.She just wasn't having fun any longer she wanted team members to run a relay with, to talk to in between races.It has worked wonderfully ,and now she is really doing great again and excited to go to practice. She is bonding with girls that she will be with for years to come and it has opened the door to meeting the other teams athletes as well.


In reply to an earlier post on May 5, 2008 10:35:24 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 5, 2008 11:54:14 AM PDT
Some nice posts here and I agree so much with the idea of keeping it fun. I helped run both a youth soccer league and softball league when our daughters were playing. I have seen a deterioration of the fun aspect over the years and see this idea of "our child needs to play sports in order to get a free ride to college" dominate the thinking of parents. It sickens me when I see a 13 year old girl crying because her parents decide to pull her out of soccer. Why? Because they have determined she is a better golfer than soccer player and her chance of getting into college on a sports scholarship are increased if she golfs(a sport the child did not like that much) instead of playing soccer(the sport she preferred). Another true story is a man telling me the only hope his 12 year old will ever have getting into college is if she plays softball because her grades are terrible. I see a mentality of many parents believing that winning will achieve educational dreams while losing kills them. When I see that thinking, it reminds me of something a writer once said when he had to reluctantly accept the fact his child would never be a star athlete as he was: "Why do many parents get so overly caught up in their child's accomplishments on the sports fields? Because they hope their child will be the winner they themselves could never be."

All I can add is what others have said-if you want to sign your child up for sports, make it for the right reasons. If you have fun, your child will. If you do not, your child will be miserable.

In reply to an earlier post on May 7, 2008 7:53:19 AM PDT
I wouldnt suggest it.. allow the child to play whatever they enjoy, and encourage multiple sports -- it will turn them into a better alla round athlete at an older age (HS ish) and when they focus in on a sport, if they so choose, they will be able to perform at a higher level

In reply to an earlier post on May 8, 2008 7:56:20 AM PDT
Ripkin's book is excellent. I think you might also enjoy, "The Road to the Big's."
Gerald Barnes

In reply to an earlier post on May 12, 2008 10:37:42 AM PDT
I think some important things to ask yourself (and your family unit!) as you introduce your child(ren) to the world of sports are: What is your goal? What would you like your child(ren) to take away from their experiences?

If you think your child has interest and drive to become an elite athlete in one specialized sport and your family is on-board to help him or her achieve that - then find the support team of coaches/physicians/teachers to help your child achieve that dream. I read someplace that 1% of the US population is made up of elite athletes, so be prepared for the road it takes to reach that (it IS do-able, but a big challenge!).

If you are interested in helping your child shine athletically to get a sports scholarship for college, again specializing or semi-specializing (ie., picking a different, yet related or complimentary sport each season) may be something that is a good fit for your family. Also take into consideration that it is helpful for athletes to cross-train with different sports, not only for physical conditioning, but also to have an alternative activity incase of injury.

If you are interested in helping your child develop social skills, begin healthy fitness habits, and become a life-long active person, then trying a wide variety of sports and physical activities is a great place to start. Like J. Sterner points out, emphasize the FUN in sports/physical activity and your child will embrace it as part of their lifestyle!

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In reply to an earlier post on Aug 13, 2008 8:04:03 AM PDT
Jane Wood says:
I concur with a lot of what's been said in this discussion. There is always the risk of burnout if children specialise too young in a single sport (e.g., Hingis).
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Discussion in:  Sports forum
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Initial post:  Jan 20, 2007
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