attended a great seminar presented by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los
Angeles called “Keep Your Child in the Game”. The emphasis on the conference
was on preventing injury and maximizing performance in the high school
athlete, but the concepts certainly apply to youth sports. There were
several speakers from the medical profession and from local schools
discussing this and related topics, including special guest speaker Dr.
Madeline Levine, a best selling author and practicing clinical child
psychologist. During the discussion, there were three major areas covered:
injury avoidance, developing an elite athlete, and the myth of over
While we have
previously dealt with some of the issues related to injuries in youth
sports, there was a common theme among the medical professionals that
specialization was a significant cause of repetitive stress injuries and
should be avoided as long as possible. The coaches in attendance concurred
that specialization was not required to excel in the sports they coached.
Furthermore, they preferred kids who played other sports because it meant
that they came into the new sport in shape and ready to play.
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Another point made was to acknowledge that kids do get injured. By far the
most common form of injury is a twisted ankle; it can be more serious than
people know because If not allowed to properly heal with treatment and rest
an ankle injury can possibly become chronic. The problem of a twisted ankle,
along with knee injuries, is also worse for girls than for boys. The key is
for parents to listen to their kids, especially if the injury is keeping
them from playing. Then, to take that injury seriously and make sure enough
rest is obtained so that the problem doesn’t become a lifelong issue.
theory of injury avoidance is simply to teach proper fundamentals. It’s even
possible that some of the repetitive stress injuries may be more directly
related to poor technique than to specialization. Nothing can cause an
injury as quickly as a kid repeating the wrong fundamental move which can
put significantly more stress on sensitive joints and tendons. As coaches
and parents, we owe it to our children to insure that they are properly
taught and that requires that we know enough to monitor these teachings. I
constantly review instructional videos and purchase new tapes for every
season to make sure that my knowledge is where it should be. These tapes are
generally excellent as teaching tools and very entertaining with lessons
from top collegiate and professional coaches.
as we can keep our kids on the field, then we can worry about maximizing
performance which is the topic discussed by Audrius Barzdukas, Head of
Athletics at the prestigious Harvard-Westlake School. Mr. Barzdukas is well
qualified on the subject after spending 8 consecutive Olympic games at the
USA training facility working with elite athletes. One of the models that he
tried to emulate was the successful program instituted by Norway which
resulted in the greatest per capita medal haul in history. The Norwegian
program emphasized the complete person: social, intellectual and physical.
Certainly nobody is going to master a sport with one practice and one game a
week; the program found two substantial numbers to create an elite athlete:
1) it takes 10,000 hours to master a sport; and, 2) becoming a complete
person requires a 24 hour a day commitment.
These are very
large and significant numbers for any young person; we need to immediately
recognize that there is only one person who can be with a child 24 hours a
day or during every minute of their 10,000 hour journey to master a sport:
the kid. 10,000 hours demands 3 hours a day, every day, for 10 years. Since
no parent or coach can possible share this lengthy
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Coach’s Corner, Continued
child has to
demonstrate independence and self-motivation. If you watch or read
biographies of superstar athletes they ALL have passion for their sport and
spend every free moment of time playing or improving their skills. Pistol,
Tiger, Magic, Isaiah, Micky, Pele, or anybody that you can name,
demonstrated total dedication and self motivation. Even with very dedicated
parents, that still means that rather than demanding that kids practice
their sport, we need to simply make sure they love playing so that they are
independently capable and driven to excel on their own.
goal as a parent or coach is now very simple: make sure the kids have fun.
If they’re having a good time, kids are more likely to practice and play on
their own. You can even watch games and simply have fun with sports so that
your enthusiasm and love for the game can be transferred to your child.
There is another element to having fun which is helping each child to excel
because kids enjoy things that they do well. However, just like injury
avoidance, excellence requires we teach proper fundamentals especially since
the kids will be playing and practicing on their own. There are videos on
every sport so there is no reason you or they shouldn’t understand the
fundamentals. There are nearly 5,000 different tapes on
also schedule classes with qualified instructors to help teach and instill
the love and excitement that will help them with their 10,000 hour journey.
The question of over scheduling becomes potentially problematic as we try to
get our kids excited about sports through lessons, joining leagues and
practicing. Especially with high academic standards and ever increasing
amounts of homework, many researchers have warned against too many
activities. However, three recent studies sited by Dr. Levine from
prestigious universities noted that over scheduling does not, on its own,
create increased likelihood of depression among children. While there are
conflicting studies that certainly suggest we should be careful not to add
too many activities, it is possible to find the right classes and coaches to
help motivate your child towards athletic independence.
By creating a
love of sports and athletics, we can help our children achieve a healthy
lifestyle that will serve them well. Physical fitness is a wonderful
byproduct of loving sports regardless of any child not playing ball beyond
high school. If we can help our children avoid injuries, insist on proper
fundamentals and help to make each kid independent enough to launch them on
their 10,000 hour journey of sports mastery, we’ve done our job as parents
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