Last night I went to a local business networking event. It’s always interesting to meet new people and to connect with them. One lady told me the story about how much it helped her son to have worked with a strength and conditioning coach when he was in high school. Positive experiences about our profession are always great to hear. Then we got into the part of the story about her son’s athletic career after high school. That’s when things got interesting.
The son was a catcher in baseball and was active in the high school band. He played high school baseball in the spring and then played on other teams the rest of the year. Now, most of us can predict where this story is going. Eventually playing baseball and being in the band caused too many conflicts. Instead of his school trying to work things out he is forced to choose between the two. He chose to stick with baseball. Once he graduates he has opportunities to play in college. By this point: a) he has started having shoulder problems b) he’s burned out. Any ideas why this may have happened???? Playing year round baseball maybe???? The best jocks in high school used to be 3 sport athletes. Not anymore. Now everyone wants to “specialize” thinking that this will lead them to that brass ring that they all want, a college athletic scholarship. Yet all to often it winds up with similar results. The kid either doesn’t want to play sports in college or they play for a year and decide that it isn’t that much fun anymore.
Why does this keep happening? Are parents and coaches not realizing the issues? If a kid wants to play a sport year round, I am ok with that at a certain age. Like I said, if a kid wants to do it. It shouldn’t be because a coach or parent says to do it. I think that it’s a problem if a 10 year old is playing year round baseball (or any other sport). Let him/her try other sports. It will develop their overall athleticism and they might actually have some FUN doing it. Even if a kid only wants to play one sport, give them a break at some point. Let them recover mentally and physically. Focus on strength, speed, and agility training. That will develop their athleticism. It can also be a time to “prehab” the body to prevent injury during the season. Maybe some parents and some coaches need to take a realistic look at things. For every kid that is able to get a college scholarship in the year round model, lots of other kids end up hurt and burned out. There are reasons, for example, that major elbow surgery is being done on teenage baseball players. This never used to happen. What changed??? Think about it.
To bring this all to a happy ending, the son from the baseball story is now playing in an adult softball league. There is no pressure, it’s just for fun and he’s having a blast. I’ve heard similar endings to other similar stories. The athlete still enjoys playing, but they just want to do it for fun.
The take home point = the year round sports model needs to change.