Children are being treated like athletes from a younger age and although there are many positives to this, not limited to:
- Understanding of commitment
- Rules and structure
- Hard work
- The importance of teamwork
- How being fitter and stronger is an advantage
With the young athletes having to perform at an earlier age there is an increased chance they may experience the following:
- Disappointment leading to disengagement
- Over competitiveness
- Lack of enjoyment
- Performance anxiety
In many sports people’s opinion competition is healthy, it shows children from a young age that hard work pays off and teaches them valuable lessons of how to work with others and puts them in situations where they will have to deal with winning and losing. However, if this is pushed on the children are we taking away their enjoyment and shortening their time in which they can ‘just be kids?’ Furthermore, could this competitive push from an early age be leading to a generation of over-training athletes resulting in an increase in injuries that used to only be seen in middle aged sports players? Also, as we covered in a previous blog (‘Enjoyment is the biggest motivation for children to be active’) if young athletes are pushed too hard they run the risk of walking away from sport all together.
In children’s sport programs, fitness and skill development have to be closely monitored to avoid overtraining. This overtraining is when the athlete is required to do too much – both physically and mentally. The signs of overtraining are lack of focus, dip in performance, failure to reach training goals and lack of motivation. Unfortunately, these traits can look like laziness which may lead to the athlete being pushed harder to try and improve their results. This will obviously only yield less than satisfactory outcomes and increases injury and can result in even longer recovery time.
As a rule, it is recommended that children don’t train for more than 20 hours a week – but this includes all activity. There is scope to increase this by 10% in strategic increments but many athletes feel the pressure to push themselves harder and become injured from doing ‘too much, too soon.’
If a child shows interest in sport, then during this development and growing stage the emphasis should be on evolving their athletic technique. Though power, speed and strength are important qualities, stressing them to these athletes at the expense of technique can also heighten their risk of injury and overtraining.
Overtraining is something that is unfortunately part of our sporting world. If an athlete shows promise and skill then that is picked up, they are put into a pathways program and their development in to a ‘sports player’ begins. The competition is so high and the stresses so great that the negativity of overtraining isn’t always explained to the athlete. The common thought is that if you want to be faster, stronger and better then you need to train harder and for longer. This is true to a point and with specific goal setting but only under guidance and understanding. Sporting talent is something that should be encouraged and training load monitored by coaches and parents alike.
This topic is an interesting one as without competitiveness and pushing oneself we might not see the same number of talented athletes coming through the ranks, however overtraining definitely has been the cause of the increase in injuries starting at a younger age. It begs the question – how much training is too much?
TEAM Sports Travel is interested in the athletic development of sporting students from our touring schools. Many of the TEAM collective are heavily involved in sport and we understand the demands on individuals as they progress in their sporting careers. Because of this, we are able to ensure that there is no overtraining on our tours. We work closely with schools to understand the level of training and matches as well as the total time they are looking to be active for. Another factor we ensure on all our tours is that there is time set aside for recovery, for both mind and body. TEAM Sports Travel understands the demands on young sports players, the benefits of tough training and competition and also the importance of appropriate training, recovery and downtime. For more information on TEAM Sports Travel or to speak to us about your next tour contact us today firstname.lastname@example.org