Young athletes love practicing and playing their sports. The thrill of victory, the humbling of defeat, and the interaction with others in competition all play a part in the aspect of any young athlete’s sport.
Many a young athlete aspire to go pro or at the very least earn a collegiate scholarship. Though those aspirations can be argued to be their parents’ wishes and desires for their child to have a solid foundation for payment of college or life overall, the most egregious of these wishes and desires force young athletes to be vehicles for their parents’ lives as they live vicariously through their children. These parents then often force their children into only one sport that they train and practice for nearly non-stop, all year. Which, according to the parents and coaches, can be beneficial in the long run.
But what happens when that sport disappears because of unforeseen events such as a pandemic?
The COVID-19 Pandemic forced society to adapt to a remote world as technology became even more pronounced in business and personal use. For young athletes required to practice social distancing, this meant having to practice and interact with their cohorts through virtual methods.
Many young athletes seemed to adapt well enough to the remote procedures, but a certain pattern developed amongst athletes that seemed to adapt better than others.
According to Dr. Henry Ellis, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and associate director of clinical research with Scottish Rite for Children Center for Excellence in Sports Medicine in Dallas, “If you play one sport, having higher depression scores is of note to us because we start to wonder if those who play multiple sports are better able to adapt to different environments,” Ellis said. “If you focus on one sport at a young age and then it gets taken away from you, maybe you don’t cope with it quite as well.”
Ellis’ statement heavily implies that young athletes that played only one sport seemed unable to adapt as well to the lack of interaction and competition whereas those youths that played more than one seemed to be able to adapt to more areas and environments more easily.
Thus, the Pandemic shook many young athletes to their core as it ripped their one sport away from them which when hoping for such high rewards as collegiate scholarships and professional contracts, depression can take root.
Pandemic-Induced Depression and Young Athletes
For young athletes of a single sport, depression sunk in the most common with around 19% of young athletes saying they experienced depression and 4% of severe depression. This depression compounds with the fact that 40% of young athletes said they simply lost interest in playing their sport due to the inability to play in the competition for the high accolades and rewards.
Many young athletes, 24% of late-teen athletes and 13% overall said they changed their sport-related goals during the Pandemic. Many of them cited that they just liked relaxing rather than training and/or practicing all the time.
Relaxing is crucial because after all, these young athletes are still children.
Sport Generalization and Sport-Life Balance
Because these young athletes are still children, parents and coaches need to realize and remember that at the end of the day, the sport is just a sport, and the young athletes still need time to be kids, teenagers, and students.
Furthermore, as the research showed, perhaps encouraging children to engage in more than just their sport or related activities can aid young athletes in better adapting to multiple variables, stimuli, and environments.
Sports can be great tools for development for children but only coupled with regards to sportsmanship, enjoyment, and balance with other life duties. Parents and coaches should not forget this and pass this mentality onto their young athletes.
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