I was a swimmer as a tween and teen. I lived it, I breathed it, I loved it. I was ok at it. It taught me a myriad of lessons that have served me well in life. My story is by no means unique and we’ve explored the benefits of sports and other extracurricular activities over the last few weeks.
Do we agree that involving our children in activities outside of the classroom is worth the time and money?
Let’s step forward to the present year. Queensland Swimming State titles for ages 10 - 12. My eldest son is competing. I am completely taken aback at the seriousness of the sport at such a young age. The swimwear, the coaching styles, the seamless execution of the carnival. Impressive.
But I do question if it’s all too much. Are we asking our children to grow up too quickly? Or is this kind of discipline is good for them?
While I am a huge advocate of keeping children busy, I have also learned the importance of giving them a break. And I’m not alone.
In his research into overtraining in young athletes in 2009, Avery Faigenbaum found that intense training and competition in one particular sport without adequate rest may result in injuries, illness, or burnout. He suggests that specialisation in one particular sport can actually harm the physical and mental development of a child.
And it makes sense.
Also explored was the need for rest in order for the body to recover. Seasonal sport being exceptional for this as the off season provided a needed change of physical activity and some time to recover from repetitive movements and intense physical and mental focus in the lead up to a big event.
But what of a sport that has no seasons? Swimming, tennis, gymnastics? Or activities that aren’t sport in the traditional sense - dance, the arts, chess? Factor in a 2 - 4 week break.
It is important to note that a break should not be a complete abstinence from physical activity - just a break from the repetitive movements and routine of the child’s chosen sport. For example if your child plays tennis, perhaps a month of swimming lessons would be a good change. Of if they are a swimmer, going on regular bushwalks could be the answer.
After Master Nine competed at State Championships, it was so very tempting to get him right back in the pool to motivate him off the back of a carnival high. But we decided to give him (and ourselves) a break from the pool (and the surf).
After doing the research, at least I now know that the break has done him well - despite the moaning and groaning to get him back in the routine of early mornings and showers at the pool. The break was great - but physical and emotional outlet his sport provides definitely helps him funnel his young energy into something beneficial.
Has your child ever suffered burnout? Have they had an injury from their sport? Do you find that the breaks throughout the year keep their passion for dance alive? Please come join the chat in The Village by;
During my reading for this post I came across an article by the Children’s Hospital of Colorado that depicted signs and symptoms of burnout in young athletes. I’ve used it to inspire this week’s download … drop me an email and I’ll send it direct to your inbox!