It is time we face it; youth sports is no longer the wholesome hometown opportunity for kids to get out and play that we once knew. Sure, there are elements of this that still exist, and if your son or daughter is playing for the right people, they make sure of it, but youth sports are more competitive than ever. Parents are no longer looking at just next season but rather looking at the next 5, 10, or more down the road. Opportunities for sport-specific training and competitive off-season programs are more abound than ever before.
With so many options and opportunities out there, parents are left to wonder, "Is my kid doing enough?". All parents want to see their child be successful. From my experience, parents of young athletes have more anxiety about their child "falling behind" than ever before. In short, there is no simple answer to this question, but there are factors that should be considered prior to open up your pocketbook to pay for those hour-long training sessions.
What Does Your Athlete Think?
What I find most interesting about this topic is that I almost never have this conversation with athletes. Parents come to me all the time asking, "What more can my child do?" but very rarely do I hear, "What more can I do?" from the athlete. So my first suggestion, talk with your son or daughter. When I say "talk," I do not mean coaching him or her to tell you what you want to hear. Ask how they feel about their performance. Ask if they would be interested in finding additional avenues to improve. I think parents would be surprised to find out that most kids find a great deal of happiness and contentedness with simply playing the games they enjoy.
Consider Your Athlete's Schedule
While kids do not always act like they are from this planet, they are, in fact actual human beings! Considering your child's already busy schedule is a huge factor in determining the addition of any training. According to the National Center of Education and the Economy, kids in the United States spend 6.8 hours in school daily. Let's go ahead and add in homework, studying, and any tutoring that may be required. Now, tack on practice and game schedules. Fatigue is a real thing, and I'll go on record as saying that we are running our young athletes into the ground. When your child is both mentally and physically fatigued, not only will you not see improvement, but you are likely to see a diminished skill set as well. Fatigue can also contribute to moodiness, hormonal imbalance, and an increased chance of injury. Our most motivated kids are the ones most at risk as they attempt to attack every practice, game, and training session with 100% max effort. As parents and adults, it is our first responsibility to care for the health and well-being of our young athletes.
Does Your Athlete Play Other Sports?
I want to make it very clear that I am NOT an advocate for young people "specializing" in just one sport. With that said, playing multiple sports does have to be considered when pondering the need for additional work in a specific sport. For example, football players who also play basketball go through an extensive adjustment period during the start of the basketball season. Football players are trained and conditioned to operate in short bursts and give max effort in a matter of seconds. Basketball, on the other hand, requires more extensive aerobic training as athletes are required to exert max effort for long stretches of time. Training for one while participating in the other in many ways can be counterproductive. My advice to kids and parents alike has always been to enjoy and focus on the season at hand. I expect my athletes to be on top of their game while in season, and I never want that compromised by anything else.
Vet Your Trainor and Program They Offer
So you have considered everything, and you and your child decide that some additional training can take him or her to the next level! Next is finding a reputable trainer or organization that can provide your top-notch athlete training and you at an affordable price. Often times, word of mouth can at least get you started in the right direction. Realize that if you do not live in a highly-populated area, you likely will need to travel for top-notch training. I know families that make a two hour round trip just to get specialized training. Once you identify a potential trainer or facility, ASK QUESTIONS! I cannot stress this enough. Too often, I hear about bad experiences that could have been avoided by simply being more cautious heading in. Ask for your trainer's credentials (education, certifications held, background in the sport, clearances, etc.). Get specific about the program they run and what you should expect to see. Most importantly, make sure your son or daughter feels comfortable. Ten years in education and 11 years as a coach has taught me that a kid can smell a rat from a mile away. Remember, this should be a good experience for a child, not a part-time job.
Determining if your child is "doing enough" to stay competitive in an increasingly competitive world cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. The answer differs with every kid and every situation. Before simply signing a check and sending your child off to the gym, make sure you have considered all that goes into an increased workload.