Chapter 2

Competitive Sports and the Body
Don’t Take the Play Out of Playing Sports

According to the Center for Disease Control, 70 percent of children quit playing sports by the time they are thirteen and all of the benefits listed in this chapter could be in jeopardy of being lost. As some youth sports continue to become professionalized, dropout rates climb. Kids tend to want to quit when it’s not fun anymore. With all the benefits of competition, too much of a good thing becomes a detriment. There is a danger of premature competition, overtraining, over-scheduling, and unrealistic adult expectations. Many times kids quit because they are robbed of the joy of “playing.”

Ben Roethlisberger ~ “It’s very important to keep sports fun because if you don’t keep it fun, you’re playing for the wrong reasons; you start playing because you have to or because someone else wants you to. You should always play a sport for the fun, and once the fun is gone, you need to consider not playing.”

Ken Dorsey ~ “I really enjoyed playing on both the serious travel teams and the local teams that were more relaxed. I met a lot of my closest friends growing up in sports; people who didn’t continue with sports were still my friends because of the friendships I developed from those teams.”

Trent Edwards ~ “My parents let me be me. They never forced me to play any sport. Sports were always enjoyable. They were never in the stands yelling at the ref or my coaches. They weren’t calling my coaches or teachers to ask why I wasn’t getting the right playing time or getting the grades. They were there at every game from start to finish. After games, it wasn’t ‘Why didn’t you make that throw?’ It was more about how I was doing in life. They were never the overbearing parents you can hear in the crowd. There were plenty of parents in the stands that nobody wanted to sit next to, and that did not include my parents.”

When I was at Provo High School in 1980, my dad coached quarterbacks at Brigham Young University. Jim McMahon and Steve Young were two of his players. These were two of the greatest ever to play at BYU, and they both received a strong influence from their parents. Steve always had a close relationship with my dad and even made the statement that, without my dad, he would not have had the opportunity to play quarterback. There was a reason for that statement. At the time, Steve Young was a defensive back. My dad recommended that he switch back to playing quarterback.

Dad saw something in Steve that had been instilled in him by Steve’s own dad many years ago. He saw Steve as a person who could play the position and lead the team. Steve was inducted, as a quarterback, into the Hall of Fame in 2005. Steve also talked about his own dad’s influence in his life:

Steve Young ~ My dad was one of the most influential people in my life because he taught me about commitment. He showed us that when we played a game, we had to take it seriously. We didn’t miss practice. We didn’t quit in the middle of a game or the middle of the year. We did not miss a single practice or a single game. Whether it was basketball, baseball, or hockey, I learned the right way to play.

Don’t Specialize Too Early
Although it is not the intent of this book to highlight specific parental failures associated in sports, we all know of very talented athletes who were injured or burned out because of too much focus on one sport or one position in sports too early and for too long.

You should encourage diverse athletic experiences over early specialization in almost all situations for children and young adolescents. As stated earlier, overtraining can lead to injury or burnout. In contrast, playing for different coaches in different sports adds to the psychological and athletic versatility that constitutes a well-balanced and resilient young athlete.

Ken Dorsey ~ “I played many sports growing up including soccer, basketball, and baseball. I didn’t start playing football until the seventh grade. I really felt playing multiple sports helped me not burn out on any particular sport.”

Trent Edwards ~ “The dynamic I liked about playing two sports was that it gave me another outlet. I don’t think focusing on one sport for twelve months out of the year is going to make you the best player in that sport. You need another outlet. Do something else so you don’t burn out. If you look at those kids who played soccer or Pop Warner football at a young age and that is the only sport they played, you realize that those aren’t necessarily the kids playing professionally today. The kids that usually go on to play a pro sport played a variety of sports. That helped them become more athletic, build muscle that contributed to performance in other sports, and allowed them to come back stronger in their main sport. I always loved playing basketball because it gave me a chance to meet new people and work with other coaches as well. It was a different game, and it allowed me to get away from football for a bit, which was positive.”

Ben Roethlisberger ~ “It is important to be able to be involved in multiple sports and not to specialize in one sport while growing up. There is a lot of value in experiencing different sports as a child.”

More Is Not Always Better
It would be easy to read the advice given in the previous section and take it to the extreme by rushing out to enroll your child in every sport available… but wait. We are brainwashed to believe that if we don’t enroll our children in every sporting opportunity, they will not be able to keep up with their peers. In essence, this is promoting peer pressure to your child.
Sometimes “less is more” in order to preserve the love of sports as well as the health of the child’s body. In this case, sometimes the child knows best when to slow down or even stop playing a sport. As a parent or guardian, you also need to factor in time for homework when school is in session.
The most important aspect in choosing sports for children is that of the child’s desire to play that particular sport.

Ben Roethlisberger ~ “My parents always supported me in whatever it was, no matter how many sports I wanted to play. They thought it was good for me to be broad and to play whatever sport I wanted to play.”

You Can Do It
Competitive sports offer a multitude of benefits for children as well as their parents or guardians. Although a lot of material has been covered in this chapter, it does not have to be confusing. There is a lot to consider, and the task can be daunting. The website, www.childgameplan.com, offers additional tips, exercises, and resources that you can use to promote the proper development of your child in the area of competitive sports.

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