When your kid's coach is a terror
Playing high pressure, year-round sports can result in overuse injuries among children, especially in the years between 11 and 15, when competition really heats up, but increasingly among younger-age children as the emphasis on serious early training grows.
“A healthy amount of emphasis on any sport puts your child on the right track of having a competitive edge, staying fit and agile, but the positives can turn negative if the child isn’t having fun,” says Dr. Joseph Gregory, a physician at the Banner Health Clinic in Johnstown, CO. “Don’t push your hopes and dreams as a parent onto your child if his or her heart is just not in it.”
The right stuff
It’s also OK to take a break from a sport.
Despite what some might recommend, resting in between seasons or playing different sports can be helpful to avoid repetitive stress injuries, says Dr. Gregory.
For mental health, an encouraging coach rather than one focused solely on winning is key, especially for kids just starting out, he explains.
“Keep an eye out for not just the winning goals, or the spectacular dunk, but how well is the child interacting with others on the sports field, and how well is the child handling stress,” Dr Gregory recommends.
“There’s nothing wrong with instilling a sense of aiming for the best, but it doesn’t have to mean only a win counts every time,” he explains.
Keeping it fun
“Young children should especially be encouraged to enjoy sports, to play with a healthy attitude and to focus on enjoying being part of a team or learning to play within the rules,” says Dr. Gregory.
Even as children get older, say upwards of 10, their parents must always reinforce the notion that winning isn’t everything. It’s great if you do, but there’s more to life.
“Young athletes can unknowingly be pushed to the brink, to the point where they forget why they loved the sport in the first place,” says Dr. Gregory. “A warning sign for me is if the athlete isn’t animated when talking about the game, couldn’t care less, or is feeling dogged by injuries.”
“That, to me, is a sign to intervene before it’s too late,” he says.