Research tells us that kids benefit mentally and emotionally by playing sports.
But, should there be a limit to the different sports your child takes on at one time?
There are many things to consider when letting your child play multiple sports, including:
- School studies: are they able to keep up their grades?
- Your time: are you driving them around from one place to the next regularly?
- The cost: sports equipment costs can add up quickly.
- Your child's health: are they able to take on all those sports and stay injury free?
Michael F. Bergeron, PhD discusses the best ways to deal with your child playing multiple sports.
RadioMD Presents: Train Your Body | Original Air Date: April 28, 2015
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest: Michael F. Bergeron, PhD, FACSM
Your trainer Melanie Cole is here to motivate and help you preform. It’s time now for Train Your Body.
MELANIE: If your kids get into sports, as I’m just finding out my son – my daughter has always been a soccer player, always been into it – but my son is just starting to get into it. Really, it’s great for kids. You know that, listeners. You know it’s great for kids. It pulls them away from the video games. I thought it would take away from his school work, but he’s learned to manage his time better so it adds to it. We’re talking about sports. Spring sports, kids and sports, how many should you let you kids do? How overinvolved should they be? My guest is Dr. Michael Bergeron. He’s the president and CEO of Youth Sports of the Americas. So, he is the consummate expert on youth sports.
Dr. Michael, some kids, you have to kick them and push them to get them to play on a team. And some kids just naturally gravitate towards athletics. How many do you let them play? Some of these sports – basketball and soccer, hockey and basketball – they cross over.
DR BERGERON: Melanie, those are all great questions and great concerns. You are not alone. A lot of parents are concerned about the same thing. You asked about really two questions, though. You asked how many sports can a child play, or should they play, but you also asked about how overloaded should they be. That’s really where it begins to become something different. They have to recognize that any child, whether you are talking elementary school or even through high school, has a lot of responsibilities about growth and development, academics, social life, and family life, and all of that. Sports can be a part of that and sports can actually help a large part of it. Now the question really is: Why are the kids playing sports? We all know that a very few are going to be selected to play at a collegiate level, never mind a professional level. More than 90% of kids that play high school sports will never play beyond high school. So, most kids are playing it for different reasons than to get an athletic scholarship or certainly not to be a professional. If that’s the case, then sports should be for fun, should be for fitness, should be for health, and it should give them an opportunity to find the sports that he or she accelerates at or loves. By exposing, or being exposed to a variety of sports, especially early on, it’s really a good thing. It helps the child to find him or herself in the sports that they love. The odd thing is that a variety of sports exposure, especially early is not only more sustainable, not only is healthier; not only is more fun and sociable, it actually develops a better athlete. Many of the best athletes in the world play multiple sports, not only through middle school but through high school as well.
MELANIE: Well, it is interesting that you say that most of these kids will not play through their college years and certainly most of them are not going pro. As someone who as I’ve said before, my son is in gymnastics – of course the kids that followed along and have gone through gymnastics started when they were 3. You look at the little Chinese kids that were taken from their parents to do this. This is something he is strictly doing to get into shape and have fun whereas other sports, like soccer, hockey, and football, they can look toward trying to get scholarships. So, what do you tell them when the kids are so into it and the parents are trying to convince them to cross train or you tell them those statistics about playing in college, but they are insisting that their kids will play in college or get a scholarship? I mean, my son knows that gymnastics is not anything he can be competitive in, but he’s having a great time.
DR BERGERON: Nobody is trying to take away a dream whether it is a college athletic scholarship or whether it is to be at the podium in the Olympics. But again, the pathway to that needs to be sustainable, needs to be healthy and, frankly, needs to be enjoyable. I have spoken to a number of Olympic champions who indicated that it was fun for them. It was the highest priority. When it was no longer fun, as often happened when they got hurt. The very same pathways that allows somebody to enjoy it is really the same pathway to develop champions. People get into trouble when they try to be that champion at 8, 9 or 10 years old versus at thinking 18 or 19. It’s is a long term process, it needs to be variable, it needs to be healthy, there needs to be rest. If you do that, you are giving a kid a chance to be successful at whatever level. All of those kids you see at gymnastics at 3, 4, 5 years old, but what you don’t see is all those that dropped off at 10 or 11 either because of burnout, or injury, or both.
MELANIE: So, that’s exactly right. Burnout is big and if they don’t like the sports that their playing and as a parent you are forcing them to play because you’ve paid for the season. Right there’s a quick question for you. Do you force a kid to finish out a season of a sport that they don’t like?
DR BERGERON: As a parent you know your child better. You know, if there’s really a problem, or do they need a little bit of a push. Again, no child should be playing if their injured or hurting. I think you just need to have that discussion. Is it something that you really hate? We all know the benefits of playing sports, as we said earlier. It can help academics, it can help with fitness, and it can help with all of that. Is there an alternative? There’s lots of ways to approach that, but I think that one of the questions that you answered earlier, too, is should there be rest period, and, yes, there should be. Unless the sports are complimentary. If it is working the body in one way in one season and working the body in another way in another season, that’s a great thing and not so much rest is required, but you can’t be doing one sport the same way year round without running the risk of being hurt. Now, you can be involved in one sport if there’s a variety in the types of training periods where you are not competing all the time. It’s not so clear, as I say, don’t specialize in a sport earlier, do lots of sports. Make sure you are not doing lots of sports at the same time. If you are going to stay with one sport make sure there’s a variation in the training and the competition loads so that the body is able to adapt and recover in a positive way. When you keep loading in the say way, doing the same sport, in the same training mode, and the same activities, the body begins to breakdown. All of a sudden the loading of the body which should be healthy becomes a negative adaptation and begins to have problems.
MELANIE: You know many of our best college and pro athletes did play multiple sports as kids. As you said, the complimentary crossing training – are there certain sports, Dr. Bergeron that you would say to a parent that asked you, “Do not have your children playing these two crossing over, or even in the same year?” Are there certain sports that go together well, like swimming and gymnastics, or figure skating and volleyball? Football and hockey? Maybe, not so much.
DR BERGERON: Well, if you are looking to minimize the head impact exposure maybe football and hockey are not two choices that should be done successively. But, the examples you used are great examples because they are loading the body in a different way. If you are looking at a baseball pitcher who also becomes a quarterback and is taxing the shoulder, perhaps, too much. Tennis as well. Listeners should recognize that multiple sports is good. It helps the participation for a child become more sustainable, healthier more enjoyable. But, as you said, many successful stories at the highest level have done multiple sports. It really does develop a better athlete and if you are going to choose a single sport early make sure there’s variation in the competition, and the training mode, and deliver recovery.
MELANIE: Dr. Mike has given you the best advice, parents, really in getting your kids into sports for the love of the sport. Get them the cross training. If they are going to do just one sport and specialize in it make sure there is some variance. Make sure that the coach knows how to train them in many different ways so that they’re not just going after one thing all the time because that’s how injuries, overuse, and burnout will happen. Look for sports that complement each other as opposed to the same sort of movement like tennis and pitching and quarterback. Try and find those sports that go together well. Then, your children can play a sport in many different seasons and really have a great time and get in shape at the same time. You’re listening to Train Your Body, Motivate and Preform with the American College of Sports right here on radio MD.
Thanks for listening and stay well.