Younger children—don’t just focus on one sport

Summertime is just around the corner, and it’s time for kids to be outside enjoying themselves.  Organized sports are often a part of that.  Whether you have big dreams for your child’s sports future (college scholarship, pro career) or she has dreams for herself, it’s important not to push too hard too soon.  Doing so can cause injury and, perhaps more importantly, can decrease the all-important fun factor.

Most children love to play with a ball even before they can walk.  As their bodies mature, they’ll enjoy learning to swim, running short distances, playing physical games like tag in the backyard.  Activities like these are great for children’s physical health and for helping them grow into well-rounded people.  Staying active prevents obesity, gives a boost to the immune system, improves mental outlook, and fosters the development of social skills (learning to play fair, settling disputes, taking turns, sharing).

Parents should be cautious by not encouraging a child to play one sport to the exclusion of others.  Focusing on one sport, whether it’s swimming, soccer, baseball, gymnastics or something else, can lead to specific injuries.  Swimmers may develop shoulder problems; gymnasts can damage joints; runners might get shin splints.  Keeping a variety of physical activities in a young child’s life enables the whole body to develop, get stronger and more flexible, and decrease the risk for injury.

Eventually your child may decide to specialize in one sport, but doing so too early goes against the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness.  There’s a great article on the subject here.  It’s best for your child’s physical, mental and social development to generalize, try a lot of different sports and activities, and to simply have fun.

 

© MBS Writing Services, 2015.  All rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “Younger children—don’t just focus on one sport

  1. Keith

    First off I agree kids shouldn’t focus on one sport. My question for you is. I currently coach an 11u select baseball team. I encourage the boys to play multi sports but I am concerned with the boys doing too much. I have 2 boys who play select baseball and select soccer at the same time. Currently the practice soccer on Monday and Wednesday’s. They practice baseball on Tuesdays with a league game on Thursday. Fridayis usually an off day but we could have a baseball tourney game on Friday. The weekend includes 3 to 5 baseball games as well as 3 to 5 soccer games. There seems to be no rest for these 2 guys. If you could give me your thoughts on this I would appreciate it greatly. Also I’m not sure how to approach their parents on this issue. Thanks in advance.

    Keith.

    Reply
    1. mbswriting Post author

      Keith, thanks for writing. Here are replies from two of our physicians.

      From Dr. Oliver: Thanks for reading our blog! In regards to your question, I agree that sounds like a lot. These boys are at increased risk for injury due to fatigue and overuse not to mention burnout. It is better for development at a young age to try different sports but for fun, not serious competition as this prevents against underdevelopment of certain muscles or skills and prevents against injury from repetition and overuse. Once you are old enough for select teams, which are more competitive and demanding, you should be old enough to begin narrowing your sports to those they enjoy the most or are more serious about. It is important to define what the goals are for the
      future and make sure it is what the child wants also.

      From Dr. Q: I would add to Dr. Oliver’s response that it is difficult for coaches to monitor or restrict what the parents allow kids to participate in. But as a coach the biggest thing to do is to instill strict guidelines on warming and strengthening every practice and should a kid start c/o pain or have an injury to pay attention to that and restrict the kids participation. Particularly if they are a ‘multi sport, every night in the week’ player. It can be difficult for coaches to do this if they have a talented player. It can be very difficult also for coaches to use the pitch count rules when a child plays on two separate baseball teams.
      I would also suggest parents and coaches look into regulations for ages on some different websites – here are a few to check out:
      < https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-
      room/news-features-and-safety-tips/pages/Sports-Injury-
      Prevention-Tip-Sheet.aspx>

      < http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/sports_injuries/>

      < http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/sports_injuries/child_sports_
      injuries.asp>

      < http://www.seattlechildrens.org/safety-wellness/prevent-sports-
      injuries-children-teens/>

      Reply

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