Statistics show that 43 percent of parents think their kids are capable of being professional athletes.
In reality that is very far from what is actually possible. Statistics from stopsportsinjuries.org state that only 7 percent of high school athletes in the U.S. actually make it to college-level sports. Before that, 70 percent of all kids in the U.S. drop out of sports before age 13. Even if your child makes it to the college level, 25 percent of those athletes quit sports while in college. The main reasons for dropping out of sports are burnout, overuse injuries or too much parental pressure. So how do we change this?
The first thing we have to do is make sure our kids are healthy and safe. There is no excuse for overuse injuries in youth sports. Train smarter, not harder. I hear time and time again about kids at 12 and 14 years old having ACL or Tommy John surgery. These types of injuries can be easily prevented, but how? The first problem that I see is early specialization in youth sports.
Decades of research by Tudor Bompa, a PhD in sports science from Romania, says that in most sports, athletes should not even think about specializing until the age of 15. This is better for long-term performance, confidence in sport performance, injury prevention and avoiding burnout.
What Bompa advocates is called multilateral development — this means that kids need to be exposed to many different types of movement, frequently and often, to help them learn how to control their bodies and build capacity for performing well.
Multilateral development could be anything from throwing and catching objects to jumping and lifting weights. It has been proven that specializing too early will cause an athlete to perform poorly compared to those athletes that specialize later in life. The more movements a child can be exposed to for a longer period of time, the better suited they will be for elite sports performance.
In short, keep your kids in as many activities and programs as you can as long as you can. When they are between 15 and 18, let them choose their specialties, and they will be much better off.
Your kid may not be the next Russell Wilson, but they will be less likely to suffer sports injuries, be more suited to perform well later in their sporting career, have a healthy relationship with exercise and have fun doing it.