Home » Team of Experts Channel » Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, MD, FAAP » Sports Safety » Taking Time Off From Sports Important For Kids, Not Just the Pros

Taking Time Off From Sports Important For Kids, Not Just the Pros

Striking A Balance

Back to our cookie analogy, if you bake a cookie too long, it isn’t usually edible. Similarly, if you push a child’s body past what it can do for sports, it doesn’t function well and kids become emotionally and physically burned out – the kid equivalent of being “over baked”. 

Dr. D’Hemecourt explains that studies show that the injury rate increases if participation is beyond 15 hours a week for most sports. For example, if Little League baseball players play for longer than 9months a year, the number of shoulder injuries goes up. 

Equally important as the need for physical activity in childhood is the right amount of activity and a mix of activities. Appropriate levels of sports participation are actually much less than what kids are currently doing. Youth sports experts like Bigelow, Grasso and MomsTeam's Brooke de Lench, feel kids in 3rd to 5th grade should be doing 1 organized sport per season for no more than 3 times a week at 90 minute durations. And, all kids should do something active every day informally with friends and family.

Beyond sports, kids also need non-sport activities for balance and  developed. If a child is only participating in sports, that’s not healthy. It would be like trying to bake a cookie without baking soda or sugar. Non sports are a very key ingredient in childhood.

Following A Recipe Doesn’t Make A Good Coach

Baking a cookie and developing a young athlete do have one important difference: we can bake an outstanding cookie by simply following the recipe. Coaching, however, involves a great deal more than following a recipe – or playbook.  In fact, it is what is not in the play book that our kids need. Bigelow compares coaching to teaching. “A parent coaching doesn’t make any more sense than one of us teaching English or math because we took it in school.” Just like we have trained and educated teachers, youth sports needs trained and educated coaches.  As we all know, today’s community coaches are often well meaning parents whose only expertise is watching ESPN and having played sports as a child. Our kids deserve more – and deserve better!

When in doubt, just have fun

Sports are in good company in today’s childhood. The same overuse phenomenon is happening in music, dance, art, acting, horseback riding, and just about every activity in which our kids participate. Sports should be coupled with non sports and everything coupled with downtime. Otherwise, today’s kids will end up incomplete – just like serving chocolate chip cookies without the chips.

So, don’t let your kid become chipless. Give them a chance to absorb all the right ingredients, in the right way, before it’s too late.

Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, MD is a pediatrician living in the Boston area and the founder and Editor-In-Chief of www.Pediatricsnow.com.

 Want to discuss this article or have question answered? Join us in the forums