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posted: 7/18/2014 9:56 AM

Editorial: Give your kids a break from rigors of sports schedule

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  • As young athletes become more specialized in specific sports, parents have to ensure they're not overdoing it in the faint hopes of their child playing in college or beyond.

       As young athletes become more specialized in specific sports, parents have to ensure they're not overdoing it in the faint hopes of their child playing in college or beyond.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

The Daily Herald Editorial Board

It's a cliché, yes, but time really was simpler "back then."

And nowhere is that more evident than in how we raise our children -- or, more to the point, how we schedule our children.

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As Daily Herald columnist Burt Constable wrote Thursday, kids who are athletes today are faced with making decisions on what sport or activity they will dedicate their time to, year-round. If they don't, the fear is they will fall behind and not succeed.

And that means that just going to the park and throwing a ball around on a lazy summer day is replaced by sport-specific camps, travel leagues and the like.

And this isn't just for high school athletes. Often, parents believe if a sport isn't selected as "the one" by middle school, then it makes it that much harder to play competitive sports in high school.

And that's where parents need to think back to their own youth, that simpler time, and make sure they're not overdoing it in the hopes of their child playing in college or beyond. Truth be told, very few (less than 7 percent!) play in college. Fewer still, a fraction of a fraction of a percent, will ever make the pros.

"I see young kids giving up other activities at too young of an age because of the dream that everyone feels their kid is going to be a pro," said Northwestern University basketball coach Chris Collins, who was one of those who played college and professionally.

But, he added, while speaking at a coaches conference, "my parents always made me have pockets of time where I got away from basketball."

And that's the key.

Parents need to step in and find other outlets for their children while still letting them pursue their favorite sport.

So this summer, let your child take up golf and step away from the court or weight room. Or send them to a camp where all their time isn't spent on one activity but they learn how to do several things and have fun doing it.

Or, because we know summer is already feeling like it's fading fast, go on that camping trip or weekend to the water or amusement park and regroup as a family.

To not do this puts your child at risk, either from injury or burnout, experts say.

A study presented at a 2013 American Academy of Pediatrics conference says youth athletes who spend twice as much time in organized sports as they do playing for fun are more likely to be injured and have serious overuse injuries. That's especially true for those who focus on one sport and use the same muscles continuously.

"I've heard from middle school kids who say they used to love soccer but now it's a job," Jason Sacks, executive director of the Chicago branch of Positive Coaching Alliance, told Constable. "Kids will get burned out."

Please don't make your kids work at having fun.

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