Reading this story a couple of months ago was music to my ears! Ryan Lochte, an elite, Olympic swimmer did not lift weights as a kid. Was his dad a visionary or just being overly cautious? Many parents immediately think that building bulk and muscles is what will get a child an athletic edge and they push their kids in that direction. They think: "We’ll make him stronger! He'll swim faster!” Well, not so fast. Muscles may build strength but what makes kids succeed in sports has nothing to do with strength. What makes kids succeed in sports has to do with skill building, keeping their bodies healthy and making sure they are having fun. Don't get me wrong. There is nothing at all wrong with weight lifting in kids - and studies have shown that. But, it won't give you the edge you hope for, and cause harm on a developing body if not done correctly. But, that's not really the point. The point is that pushing bodies in directions they are not intended to go while young is not what creates athletic success. If you want proof, just look deeper into Ryan Lochte's story. He’s won medals and has beaten Michael Phelps … and didn’t lift weights until after high school. His dad is a visionary in my mind! Ryan's dad, Steve, told the New York Times,
“You should wait until the bones are fused and skeletal growth is finished..."Makes good medical and developmental sense to me, and didn't seem to hurt Ryan's athletic success at all. In fact, his dad's low-keyed, child-focused attitude is likely just what Ryan needed while young. My other issue with kids body building is that we want our kids to look like kids while they are kids. I worry that too many tweens and teens are trying to emulate the stars they see on TV, who appear like mini-Arnold Schwarzenegger as boys or overly thin Barbie dolls as girls. Both are unhealthy body images and as parents we need to monitor for those issues if our kids delve into the world of body shaping in any way at all while young. My advice is to let your kids be kids as long as possible. Don't worry so much about talent or try to push them in directions you think they need to go. Follow their leads for interests and help them find sports venues that nurture those interests. The rest, like "talent" and even "success", will come as it comes. We can't guarantee that but we can provide the high 5's for wins and the hugs for losses. If all goes well, our kids will have a healthy mix of both.