Playing a sport is a great thing.
I love when I hear from the youngsters in the office about them playing baseball and getting their first hit, or scoring their first goal in hockey. These are great days in little lives; parents grandparents also enjoy seeing them have fun. At some point that all changes though it seems.
More prevalent today then when I was a child is sport specialization. What I mean by this is that kids are pigeonholed into a specific sport at an early age and train for a specific sport. There are gyms who run programs for “hockey preparedness” or “football specific training”, for example. Is sport specialization a good thing?
Let’s look at hockey as an example… we’re in Canada after all, so it’s (one of) the official pastimes!
In speaking to patients with boys and girls playing high level hockey at all ages the year sounds very different from my childhood. Here is a ‘typical’ rep hockey player year in review:
– August: Preseason tryouts. Lasts a week or two and consists of multiple practices, scrimmages, and games
-September to February: Regular season consisting of 3 or 4 games and practices per week. Two or three tournaments away mixed into the regular season schedule.
– March to April: Playoffs. Depending on success of the team will determine the duration of this portion, obviously. Still 3 or 4 games/practices a week though.
-May: End of Season tryouts for following season placement.
-Late May to June: Summer 3 on 3 hockey starts. Fast paced games to keep up ‘off season’ conditioning
-July to August: Hockey Camp season begins with kids enhancing their skills for weeks at a time doing drills and power skating.
Does this sound like fun or more like a job to anybody else?
Here’s the thing, in hockey the estimate for an Ontario boy to be drafted by an NHL team in 1991 was approximately 0.16%… yes… 0.16%. In the time that has passed since then the sport has gained popularity in the US and Europe meaning the % has likely dropped from that paltry figure.
I’m not saying to pull your child out of sports/hockey.
Sports have a huge impact on developing youth. I will attest that playing on multiple team sports helped me develop skills I use daily. It allowed me to develop friendships that persist today. These are the great things that can come from playing a sport. We should encourage this for children, and if they have a great natural skill it will develop naturally with a little directed coaching. Should they be destined to make Millions in a professional league the scouts will likely find them in their early years. If not… let them have fun!
Also let them play a diverse number of sports (if time/funds allow), or have an actual off season. They need it. Repetitive strain and inability to have time off to heal is being shown to not only increase the likelihood of injury but also increase the odds of dropping out by age 13.
I still remember the rule in my house growing up:
We were encouraged to try any sport, however, once we signed up and were on a team. We finished the season, in order to not let others on our team down. A great life lesson if you ask me. It taught me early on how my actions could negatively impact the lives of others. I still work at things this way in life. When I commit to something; I follow through 100%. I tried many different sports; hockey, lacrosse, soccer, football, rugby and more. Some I found success in where others I simply tried to be a good “team guy”. Most importantly, I was able to keep my body moving in varied ways. Even some of the best hockey players in the world didn’t play year round; Gretzky was a noted lacrosse player in the summers. Hockey was always my #1 sport; then I tried rugby. And the “hooligans game played by gentleman” became my go to sport. It allowed me to play at the University level, make a whole list of new friends, learn about respect for officials and most improtantly have fun!
The message is simple from this blog, I believe. Let your kids be kids. The odds on them becoming a professional athlete are stacked against them. If they are talented enough to be found… they will be. Explore different sports; you never know what they will learn as a result. Let them be a Professional Kid… it’s what they are best suited for.
Dr. Matt Lindsay
Aligned Chiropractic – Burlington, ON