Youth Sports: Rest for Long-Term Success

The job of a youth coach may be the most important coaching job that exists. The pay that is received doesn’t quite match up to the importance of it! A youth coach is more often than not the very first coach and teacher a child has. It is very important for a child to have a good first experience in order for them to continue playing their chosen sport. I am under the belief that knowledge of the sport is secondary to knowing how to have fun with the kids and keeping them interested in the sport that is being coached. Making practice fun while teaching the basics of the sport is very important. Kids will want to continue playing a sport if they find the sport fun. I remember my first youth baseball coach, he was limited in baseball knowledge, however, made it fun and I developed a baseball for baseball that year that still exists today.

The youth coach is responsible for bringing 10 or more children together, teaching them the basics of the sport, helping them form friendships, fostering teamwork, and most of all teaching them to love the game. Developing these things during practice is very important as considerably more time will be spent with the children during practice than games. Practices should be set up to be fun and skill-based. It is important for the kids to have fun and interact with their teammates during practice while the skills are being taught. There is a fine line between letting the children get too silly and allowing them to have fun. That is another one of the challenges for a volunteer youth coach.

Make your kid better at sports by playing less! Kind of seems like a contradiction doesn’t it? This is the advice of renowned sports surgeon Dr. James Andrews. Dr. Andrews has seen enough. Enough of parents who think their son or daughter is the next superstar athlete and need to be pushed all year round. When Dr. Andrews first started he saw mainly professional athletes. Now, to his alarm, he is seeing younger and younger patients. Dr. Andrews started seeing a sharp increase in youth sports injuries, particularly baseball, beginning around the year 2000.

He started tracking and researching youth injuries, and what he has seen is a five- to sevenfold increase in injury rates in youth sports across the board. He is trying to help these kids, given the epidemic of injuries that we’re seeing. His mission now is to keep these children out of the operating room by focusing on injury prevention. Dr. Andrews started a prevention program he named STOP: Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention (in youth sports). Dr. Andrews’ feels two things have lead to an increase in injuries. One is specialization and the other is what he calls professionalism. Specialism is playing the same sport year-round. This leads to a sky-high increase in overuse injuries. Professionalism is taking these kids at a young age and trying to work them as if they are professional athletes, in terms of training them year-round. All of this comes from the most renowned sports surgeons around.

I, having been a coach for 15 years and having raised two boys in youth sports and now in high school sports, have personal experience with this. I have seen at least 4 cases of youth pitchers being “the star” on their youth team and throwing way too much during their younger days including playing all year round. All 4 of these “youth stars” ended up not being able to pitch in high school due to arm injuries. I have a boy who pitches in college. When he played in high school, I was very involved with his innings (pitches) that he would throw in a season. I was also very involved in making sure he took a few months off, not throwing at all before we start our throwing routine back up. My son threw approximately 80 innings between April and July his senior year. He also played fall baseball for approximately a 6 week period. We made the decision he was not going to pitch, and just work on playing the outfield and hitting. More parents need to understand how important rest is. Too many feel that getting continuous repetition the entire year is what is best for the youth, however, that is not the case.

So to improve your child make sure they are getting the needed rest between seasons. Make sure you are involved with your ball player’s usage to make sure they are not overused to a point that could cause injury down the road. This is not to mention the fact it is good to let them just be a kid at times!

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