Part 1:Primary Kids

Summer’s end – grand finals are being played, nipper caps hung out and soccer boots tried on.

But the question many parents ask me is, should my child be still doing training for their sport in the off season?

Should my child be training all year round?

No one answer that can possibly cover all the variables of different sports, individuals and levels but there are some general principles to consider.

 Firstly, Soar Performance is a big proponent (in most cases) against Early Sports Specialization. Defined as specializing exclusively in one sport before adolescence.

Exceptions to this would be sports such as gymnastics and dance

Exceptions to this would be sports such as gymnastics and dance where it is necessary, if future excellence is the goal, to acquire complex movements and skills before the onset of the adolescent growth spurt, which is approximately 12 years of age for females and 14 years of age for males.

The reasoning against Early Sports Specialisation are both physical and mental. For children to reach their athletic potential they must be exposed to a wide range of physical stimulus, usually beyond the scope of any one sport.
Not surprisingly studies have shown that physical fitness and gross motor movements are improved when pre-adolescent children played multiple sports versus just one sport.
A study in The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, showed that 88% of college athletes participated in more than one sport as a child.

Playing multiple sports gives and larger athletic base and skill set to draw from.

Playing multiple sports exposes the athlete to different kinds of skills, movement patterns, coordination, and dynamic power development. It’s been found that children who play multiple sports have a larger athletic base and skill set from which to draw from. This means that they can pick up and learn skills and techniques faster than their one sport counterparts.

Athletes who specialized were twice as likely to report injury

Apart from the physical benefits that multiple sports bestow upon our kids there is also the protective benefits to their developing bodies.
A new study by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health which included over 1,500 high school athletes found that athletes who specialized in one sport were twice as likely to report a lower extremity injury as compared to those who played multiple sports. 

Many well-meaning parents who have only the best intentions operate under a “If some is good then more must be better” mantra.
On a surface level it makes perfect sense right? If you want to get better, you have to practice and play. The more you do the better you get!
All well and good…until it’s not.

Sports place an unusually high load on the human body.

When training children it is easy to forget this as they are so resilient and bounce back so quickly. That is until the day they don’t, and a nagging overuse injury starts to prevent them from practice and competition.

“An injury is the fastest way to decrease athleticism” – Dr Greg Schaible

Physically children have so much going on. Growth spurts, a developing skeletal and muscular system, coordination development and increasing strength.
All these can be risk factors for overuse and repetitive strain injuries.

When children play multiple sports, it varies the sorts of stress placed on the body.
Swimming, footy, tennis, netball, paddling all have different physical demands.
As such the wear pattern and strain on the body differs.

Just as importantly, the other aspect to consider is the psychological one.

Kids just want to have fun

Kids want to have fun!
Sure, winning is good but it’s adults that prioritize its importance.
Interestingly when kids are having fun in their sport they simultaneously want to get better and win as well. But usually when it’s just up to them it’s in that order, fun, improving, winning.

If a child is placed in a highly competitive environment in year-round competition the fun and joy for the game can soon be lost.
To be highly successful at just about anything you need to be passionate about it. Sports particularly.
Passion for a game starts because it’s fun to play.
Lose the fun and the passion will soon follow.

Passion for the game starts because its fun to play.

For sports that don’t have an off season or in the instance that the child really doesn’t like other sports other than their chosen one, a good point to remember would be this.

If elite level sports people don’t play their sport all year round and carefully plan periods to rest their bodies from the wears of their sport, then how much more important that a young developing athlete should as well.