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Impact of Early Sports Specialization

Introduction

Burnout in athletes is the result of various factors that can lead to painful injuries, intense stress levels as well as deterring performance, due to excessive pressure. Intense training schedules forms one of the most basic issues that can result into burnouts. Sometimes, it is also the age factor that makes things even more complicated as many athletes are made to go through these intense schedules at and since a very early age. This early age phenomenon could even include eight to ten year olds. (Stenson, 2004)

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One of the basic reasons as to why these kids / athletes would suddenly want to be a part of this all with extreme passion without really realizing the need for rationally considering their schedules constitutes of pressure in specific that is put on them by their ever demanding parents. It is a generally seen norm as well as a practice that parents in specific fathers who for instance were centre forward football players back in their high school or college times, for example, eventually want their sons to copy them by taking the same steps. They feel this will get their children or the young athletes the ‘ticket to college success in terms of admission’, and a new pride and respect for sports altogether. (Stenson, 2004)

Usually, practice sessions even prolong to the extent that they cover semesters over semesters even encompassing the times when the kids would actually have off from their respective academic institutions / schools / colleges. As a result of these overly demanding schedules, may a times the young athletes give up on other interests that they could have also worked around with in general apart from playing their ‘favorite sport’. (Stenson, 2004)

There are many other issues that result from this main problem of burnout in young athletes that are faced by many of our children. It is however the increasing level of burnout in young athletes during contemporary times, that has led us to study and ponder upon a topic like this. One area where coached can really play a role is to understand the immense importance that coached need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of burnout. If coaches can and are able to understand the problem and identify it they should be able to address the situation before it becomes critical for the child at first and then the team, his family, success, wins etc. This should help his/her program by keeping kids involved in athletics. As well as addressing the athlete’s issues, this knowledge will help with parental concerns when they arise. Steve Marshall of University of North Carolina also said that sports have now become something that is about something more than just kids having fun. (Stenson, 2004)

Also, it is very less that the realization is made regarding how these athletes will feel or have been gone through once they step into their post high school lives and join colleges etc. This thought is even more disturbing since it could help in unraveling the nasty secrets about national or state championship which can and even literally does drive these players crazy with the idea of winning, to the extent that they become fixated with it. (Stenson, 2004)

The following paragraphs aim to highlight some of the basic issues that feed behind the main negative aura of burnout in young athletes. These have been characterized into sub – headings so as to give the paper a more basic, structured flow in terms of thought patterns and connection of general ideas pertaining to the issue.

Discussion of causes and symptoms

Multiple team participation during a single season

Perhaps the most important issue to be examined is the increase of injuries in young athletes who specialize. Each year doctors are seeing young players needing treatment for overuse injuries. If an athlete is playing on more than one team in a season and have weekend tournaments, off season and “volunteer” summer workouts, and camps they have very little or no recovery time. (Brenner, 2007)

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Generally, sports are seen to be as a good exercising habit and an extremely good and efficient means to lead to fitness, bodily and even mentally. However, when this paper talks about burn out, then it talks about the negative consequences of this phenomenon, which can again also result through having multiple memberships in the many different sports clubs or types of games. If a player deals with overtraining a reason basically for this could be that yes, he or she could just be a part of more than one or even two teams (Orton, 2009). This, as the basic human mind can consume results into a lot of fatigue and tiredness, as a result of which the players cannot exactly focus much o other interests of theirs and thereby gain de-motivation in those areas. (Brenner, 2007)

This case of playing in multiple teams also is the case when their coach and / or parents forces them into joining other teams so as to basically increasing the experience horizon or simply be on a call pt for college scouts etc. Multi sport athletes can be at an even higher risk of suffering from injuries even more since they do not get sufficient breaks between their many training schedules for their games. And in sports which use the same muscles or body parts, then the risk of getting injuries gets increased by three to four times more. (Brenner, 2007)

Early sports specialization

The young athlete could even be when participating in more than one sport or deterring away from specialization in more than one sport lead to a failure in all that he does! However, in the case f one sport specialization it has been seen that the athlete could in order to improve, advance in whatever capacity he is currently playing in and where he sees himself in future, wants to compete effectively with others (Orton, 2009). He has or would have the highest level of competition in mind hence, which leads to him being a part of very long and strenuous training sessions for many hours at a stretch on a daily basis. This can be particularly the case when it comes to sports like baseball, gymnastics and soccer, and even basketball for that matter. (Brenner, 2007)

Parental pressure

One of the basic reasons as to why these kids / athletes would suddenly want to be a part of this all with extreme passion without really realizing the need for rationally considering their schedules constitutes of pressure in specific that is put on them by their ever demanding parents. It is a generally seen norm as well as a practice that parents in specific fathers who for instance were centre forward football players back in their high school or college times, for example, eventually want their sons to copy them by taking the same steps. They feel this will get their children or the young athletes the ‘ticket to college success in terms of admission’, and a new pride and respect for sports altogether (Stenson, 2004).

The child when has or would have the highest level of competition in mind hence, which leads to him being a part of very long and strenuous training sessions for many hours at a stretch on a daily basis it basically means that he will be being trained across many sports altogether. This can be particularly the case when it comes to sports like baseball, gymnastics and soccer, and even basketball for that matter and often it is seen that the young athlete faces a severe stress level due to primarily, the parental concerns over his doing very well or not doing very well in the particular sports. Therefore, this literally parent-induced stress and high expectation level can really help a lot negatively in placing stress weights all over the young athlete and force him to give in more than he already was giving in initially (Brenner, 2007)

Unrealistic expectations

Many a times, also these athletes do not even have sufficient time period to become good even reasonably at the sport they want to be good at adding to even further stress levels. There are unrealistic expectations on the part of parents, of seeing their child get ‘first’, or being a winner in the category he is winning to the same child as an athlete being forced by his coach to win, win and win and increase sport performance by manifolds. (Brenner, 2007)

Most parents even fail to realize the fact that not everyone gets into scouts or gets scholarship based on merit on extra curricular etc. They need to severely understand the process of this by looking deeper into the issue and seeing that there is only a 0.2 to 0.5 percent chance that young athletes will ever make it to the professional level in those particular sports that they play. (Brenner, 2007)

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Little or no off season to recover

Giving even more magnitude to the issue of piling injuries and an increasing plethora of stress indicators, is the basic fact that these athletes do not even get enough rest and relief to recover and de-stress themselves. For anyone to start recovering from a disease or something, it is highly important rather a mandatory condition that he or she is even a proper recovery time, this ranging from a few days to even weeks and months at a time. In the case of young athletes however, the issue of multiple games and then on top of that the issue of off-season practice that the young athlete gets literally no ‘off-time’ for his own self. He basically gets no or very minimal ‘off-season from sports’ to recover from injuries, both physical and mental and bodily so as to rejuvenate and come back later for a fresh start to another round of training exercises. Sadly, none of this can be seen in much prevalence here. (Coakley, 2004)

Year round training

Usually, practice sessions even prolong to the extent that they cover semesters over semesters even encompassing the times when the kids would actually have off from their respective academic institutions / schools / colleges. As a result of these overly demanding schedules, may a times the young athletes give up on other interests that they could have also worked around with in general apart from playing their ‘favorite sport’. (Stenson, 2004)

If an athlete is playing on more than one team in a season and have weekend tournaments, off season and “volunteer” summer workouts, and camps they have very little or no recovery time. This is very important since due to injuries many students (especially those on sports scholarships) have to drop out of school and even from sports for life. (Orton, 2009)

Reducing burnout in young athletes – some basic guidelines

There are many basic tips that can help the athletes themselves as well as their coaches and parents in warding off unpleasant effects of burnout from sports related variouirs criteria as outlines above (Lovitt, 2007) These include the following:

  • think only about yourself and what you are doing
  • limit time schedules
  • limit demands
  • carry out other interests besides the sport
  • minimize the effects of criticism by parents and or coaches
  • make sure there is time to relax in one’s life
  • ensure that there is sufficient social interaction and time for fun
  • have control over one’s own life (Lovitt, 2007)
  • contribute to your training
  • limit travel demands
  • tell your parents about stressors
  • ensure that you keep your important circle of people around you informed (Lovitt, 2007)

Referenceы

Brenner, J. (2007) Overuse Injuries, Overtraining, and Burnout in Child and Adolescent Athletes – Clinical Report. Journal – Pediatrics, Volume 119 Number 6, pp. 1242 – 1245.

Coakley, J. (2004) Sports: Issues and Controversies. Eight Edition. Publisher: Mc-Graw Hill.

Lovitt, C. (2007) Player Burnout: Studies and Recommendations. Web.

Margenau (1990) Sports without pressure. First Edition. Publisher: Routledge.

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Orton, T. (2009) Flexible Fitness. Web.

Stenson, J. (2004) Pushing too hard too young. Web.

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