When and how should my child start training?
By Scott Hettenbach, MS, CSCS, TPI-L2
With warmer weather on the way soon, many families are turning their attention toward summer camps and activities for their middle school children. This might include playing a summer sport or participating in off-season training – or both. Too much training or competing can cause burnout and stress, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
The benefits of children participating in sports are clear. In addition to good physical health, kids build self-esteem and confidence, get better grades, develop leadership skills and form friendships.
It is possible for your child to experience the good without the bad.
In the beginning, children should be learning how to use their bodies. Help them practice basic running, skipping, jumping and landing mechanics.
Start by introducing your child to a sport and intensity level that is age- and skill-appropriate.
Avoid the pressure to specialize in a single sport too early. Children should play a variety of sports to develop a strong foundation of athletic skills. This foundation can transfer to a primary sport of choice and make them a healthier overall athlete.
Should your child specialize in one sport? You need to pay attention to the cues from your child and what he or she wants. As teens, children may want to focus on one or two sports. It is OK to provide encouragement and support and even assist your child in finding a specialized training program.
If you and your child feel a training program would be beneficial, do your homework. Find a program with performance coaches with appropriate certifications and experience. Young athletes should be learning techniques that are based on scientific principles supported by national organizations. Your child’s training program should be based on best practices and research, not guesswork.
Programs should be designed around your child’s specific needs. Make sure the program provides pre-screening and post-testing, allowing for kids to see what they accomplished.
If your child seems overwhelmed or burdened by his or her sport of choice, it might be time to take a different path — either temporarily or permanently. It could prevent burnout and serious injuries.
Introduce a different activity in this summer’s off-season that might complement what happens in the regular season. For example, football players can find great benefit from yoga.
Remember that children are not small adults. To keep your child happy and healthy, make sure you pay attention to your child’s behavior and talk about what is going on.