Why Coaches and Parents are Hurting Young Athletes
In today's world, contrary to what Allen Iverson thinks, practice is important. Athletes and coaches place a premium on practice as it should be. As many of us watched the Super Bowl on Sunday and saw the amazing interception at the end of the game, I was in shock on how the game ended. I was equally impressed at what Malcolm Butler, the player who made the game winning interception, said in his post game interview. When asked about the play, Malcolm responded "Preparation. Watching film. I knew when the stack receivers came up, this was the play they run". Malcolm Butler credited film room preparation to his Super Bowl winning interception. The point to be made here is that preparation is key to success and it couldn't have been more evident as shown in this game.
Practice and preparation is unfortunately underrated as a key concept to success. However, this article will detail why too much practice and "preparation" is hurting the youth of today. "I just think European players are just way more skillful. They are just taught the game the right way at an early age. They're more skillful... We have to teach our kids to play the right way." When asked, "what is the decline of skill players in the United States?" Kobe answered, "AAU basketball. Horrible, terrible AAU basketball. It's stupid. It doesn't teach our kids how to play the game at all so you wind up having players that are big and they bring it up and they do all this fancy crap and they don't know how to post. They don't know the fundamentals of the game. It's stupid." Wait, so Kobe Bryant, arguably the best basketball player to ever play, basically just said AAU basketball which allows basketball players to play all year in order to be better prepared, is hurting the athletic development of youth players?
I started playing golf around the age of 17. I have to undoubtedly admit that my father and I took our first golf lesson because of Tiger Woods. He brought golf to the mainstream and allowed guys such as myself to pick a golf club up when I never would have. Tiger Woods still sits behind Jack Nicklaus in majors won. Not to bore you to death with stats, but key injuries have kept him off pace to take the major crown. Many would argue the different reasons behind that, but some biomechanical experts would credit his early specialization to his demise. Tiger Woods, who we all credit to having unparalleled work ethic, could have lost his shot at reaching 19 majors due to his 39 year old golf swing. When our bodies are subject to the same movements time over time, we put ourselves at risk for developing overuse injuries. Unfortunately I believe Tiger Woods is suffering because of his life long dedication to the sport. Too much practice and preparation may have finally caught up to his body. Now his body can't keep up with the demands its needs to.
Baseball makes for a very interesting observation. 57% of pitchers suffer from some form of shoulder injury over the course of a season. PROOF HERE Showcases, fall and summer baseball teams, and other playing opportunites all lend to rise in early specialization and injuries. Unfortanuately, many coaches, athletes, and parents want to think that with more practice, the better off they will be. Sorry to burst your bubble coaches and parents, according to the NCAA, only 6.5% of high school players go on to play in college. To take it a step further, only 1.6% of collegiate players go on to be professionals. Point being, relax with the constant playing and practicing and allow athletes some time off. NCAA LINK
A recent chart was published showing that 42 of the 47 athletes recruited by Urban Meyer to Ohio State were multi-sport athletes. As one article mentioned, "when a three-time national championship-winning coach explains his recruiting strategy, people better pay attention." An athlete who is able to show off his athletic ability in different sports and use skills acquired when playing other sports in order to dominate in their main sport, will be a step ahead of the crowd. Lebron James anyone? (All-State Football Player)
This article is to shed light on the money-driven, injury producing epidemic that is plaguing American sports, year around play. In order for an athlete to be successful, they must practice and play their sport all year-round right? Wrong. That's just the mindset that most coaches, parents, and athletes have adopted. Year around soccer programs are present just like the baseball world. AAU basketball is an all-year sport now. When will we realize that too much practice is hurting our athletes? Interested in discussing this topic further, please shoot me an email.
Cornell Hunt, CSCS, USAW