Specialization. Overuse. What Do YOU Think?

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

A Facebook post recently caught my attention. A former coach wrote: 'Kids are playing too much without rest. I think I've seen 12-13 year-olds play as many games in a season as pros and I don't understand why. Something has to change or the overuse injuries are going to continue.' As you can imagine the comments, some of which I have included below, were passionate and voluminous.

The first one got the ball rolling:

I did a research paper on this recently. Feel free to educate yourselves from medical professionals with expertise in youth sports overuse injuries. Kids as young as 8 are doing a year round single sport. It’s not good for your kid’s body: physically and mentally.

Agreed!!! And every coach in every sport try to make their sport year round. If you aren't at their conditioning and off season practices, "it won't be held against you" until it does get held against them! Year round sports has got them so burnt out by the time they are Seniors! A huge amount end up quitting!

As an athletic trainer—-this is 100% true!! More and more kids are having overuse injuries I have to rehab with all the time. More teenage boys are having to have Tommy John surgery—something that used to be rare in boys. According to sports research there is also an extremely high # of kids that drop out of their sport by the age of 12/13 due to being burnt out from playing nonstop at such a young age up to 13.

Maybe if travel ball wasn’t year round kids would take a rest and play another sport! They won’t shutdown if their teammates are practicing, they feel like they are getting behind. The adults control all of this….they offer tournaments and make schedules, they should also be the people that are smart enough to understand that baseball/softball should not be played year round. Protect the kids!

Travel ball for baseball, softball, soccer, basketball etc will never slow down. There is too much money to be made. It quit being about the kids and their development a long time ago. Directors making 6 figures, areas hosting these events make a good chunk of change etc. Its too much of a cash cow.

This issue is across all youth select sports. It’s awful to see how many high school girls are missing spring soccer seasons with torn a acl. Came across 8 players over three teams in last week. Bodies aren’t meant to do the same sport year round.

Not to mention sports are in the way of families being families! If parents think sports are going to help their kids get a possible scholarship, they need to understand it’s such a small percentage that they should just save their hard earned money for college!

Also. Kids can't just sign up and play. There are evaluations, legit tryouts and politics for kids just to play for their town. I understand AAU / All Star / Select teams SHOULD have Tryouts, etc. But making so stressful for a kid under 10 years old who just wants to play on Saturday mornings, it is not worth it

Oh my…. I’d rather my kid want to play a sport than sit on the couch & play video games & watch tv! My child plays over 100 games spring/summer… his pitch count is monitored closely! He listens to his body … he WANTS to do it! He even plays wiffle ball at home in his spare time…

My kid loves it too! It’s all his choice. When he tells me he is done, then he is done. It’s also more than just baseball. We do charity events as a team also. My older son got burned out and now loves golf. I leave it up to my kids. I don’t make them do anything they don’t want to do.

It’s because a lot of parents have FOMO. They think if little johnny doesn’t keep playing he will get passed up on at some point. Play 3 sports!! Multiple sports makes your son or daughter a better athlete.

I agree but I guarantee you his scouts are showing up to club showcase events to recruit. These guys don't go to high school baseball games anymore. Why bother when you can spend one weekend watching dozens of kids from different areas of the country. I'd respect this more if he committed to not be an enabler.

I came to say the same. If colleges sent scouts to high school games maybe there wouldn’t be so much emphasis on travel and single year round sports if a kid wants to try to continue playing competitively after HS. Coaches make these comments yet they pull from travel teams.

The kids need to experience other sports as well. Early specialization is not good for them. They could miss out on a sport that they would end up liking more and bring better at.

This is stupid. Kids should play as much baseball as they want. Would you rather them sit inside and play video games? When I was a kid we played every nice day all day long.

Pretty much most star athletes in college and pro sports were multi sport athletes. All these off season camps, programs, and leagues are designed for naive and gullible parents who believe if they keep shelling out the money that their kid will end up getting scholarships and/or go pro.

Same goes for Hockey. It is now year round with constant pressure on the children to attend training camps, captain practices summer tournaments in multiple states. It destroys family values. It destroys the kids love of the game. It simply destroys childhood. I would have never played any youth sport if it was the way it is today.

I’m a veteran travel softball dad. My oldest is done and had ample scholarship opportunities and when it came time to go to school she chose not to play ball. It broke my heart but I totally understand. The grind is hard. It’s nothing like when I played ball as a kid. It’s an individual thing though to me. I remember playing ball as a kid and I would have loved that schedule. I ate, slept, and drank baseball………. But I do see the other end of this spectrum as well. My youngest is 11 and I’m approaching the game a different way. I pushed my oldest too hard, I see that now. My youngest I’m taking a different angle. If she wants to work I’ll gladly go help her work out. I’m not going to make her. It’s really up to the kid. If they have the drive, are having fun, and they love it then great. Just speaking from experience though folks. Don’t push your kid beyond their limits. Let them tell you if they want a work out. Don’t push them. If they love the game and have the drive they will tell you. Trust me. Now I’m witnessing my oldest enrolled at a college that she could help their softball program win some ballgames easy, and she has no desire.

I have been shouting this from the rooftops for years! I think part of the problem is that kids aren't allowed to play other sports, which helps develop different muscle groups.

I have one son and three nephews that played college baseball. One spent 7 years on an MLB roster. Only one of them only played baseball. The others grew up playing multiple sports. I'm convinced that wrestling in particular, made my son a better baseball player and a HAPPIER HEALTHIER KID. The one nephew that played in the MLB also played football and basketball growing up. Too many parents are acting like sports agents to their kids. 

I don’t agree with this if the child loves this sport they will breathe it year round and don’t care and pace their self’s my son loves baseball so much and off season he is still choosing to work out and condition to be the best he can be.

A lot of these kids aren’t playing for themselves. They’re playing for their parents’ sake.

It is difficult, very difficult, to know what is best for your child. Do your research, talk to your doctor, but most importantly, talk to your child. If they know that you only want them to do what makes them happy and that none of their athletic career has any bearing on how much you love and respect them, then you will be more likely to get an honest answer to the questions you ask. 

Brian Gotta is a former professional recreational youth baseball coach and volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is President of Help Kids Play, a collection of companies whose mission is to further the development and enjoyment of youth sports.

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