Last Boy or Girl Standing – Training or Abuse?

I have been thinking about this for quite awhile. I am going to tell you a story today. It is not a pretty story, but it is a story that is repeated in pool, gyms and fields across our country everyday. Young growing athletes are being abused and nobody wants to say anything. If we did this to a dog or a horse the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would have the perpetrator arrested. What am I talking about? I am talking about training the young and developing athlete. A friend of ours daughter swims on a very successful swim team. She is a very young thirteen year old of very slight build and probably has not gone through puberty. She is just off of Junior Olympic Qualifying times because she missed three weeks with a severe upper respiratory infection. She came back from that and literally swam her heart out. I saw the meet and this girl flat out lays it on the line, she competes, that is what every coach loves to see. She is also very intelligent and understands what is going on. Because of her times she has been moved up a group and now can swim twice a day. The good news is that because her school is still in session she cannot do the morning workouts. She needs strength (also has some shoulder problems that I have tried to help with) Her mom and dad are both teachers and coaches and as asked if she could come over and use our Vasa trainer and the med balls to strengthen her core. So instead of swimming a second session she is doing what she really needs to do, strength train. When I suggested that this would be a good idea to continue both she and her parents told me that if she did that and did not do both swimming sessions then she would be kicked off the team! That is really youth development isn’t it.

Wait it gets better. I asked how much she swam in one session and she said 6,000 yards. That may not be much for a mature senior swimmer, but that is way over the top for a young undeveloped thirteen year old. The next group up, the top group swims 9,000 meters in the morning and 6,000 meters in the evening. In the morning after they swim they do their Dryland on the “machines.” This is pretty typical in swimming; there are numerous examples in other sports. The end of the story remains to be written. I hope it has a happy ending, but the problem is that most do not.

This is a pure Darwinian approach. There is absolutely no consideration for growth and development. The sole criteria in this case for determining training groups are time. If you swim faster you get to work harder. No consideration for biological age, maturation or recoverability. This is a classic example of fitting the child to the sport rather than fitting the sport to the child. The good ones survive and sometimes thrive. The coaches have no idea how they make it, but they willingly take the survivors. It appears to me that in most sports there is no set curriculum or idea how to progress an athlete through the process. It is simply pile on the workload and let the cream rise to the top. Folks this is a brutal reality show. The professionals that read this blog need to wake and do something. This is not just happening in my town it happening all over the country. Young pitchers are pitching in three leagues at once. Youth baseball teams regularly play 128 games in a season. Young endurance athletes are regularly prescribed asthma medication to help their breathing. Young football players are being force fed like sumo wrestlers to gain weight. I saw this with my own daughter when as a sophmore in high school she palyed in 74 soccer matches. Young athletes regularly get ACL repairs and Tommy John surgery knowing full well that there will be problems later on. This is nothing more than a culture of excess. In future blogs I will suggest solutions. Hopefully as professionals we can write a happy ending to this story.


At 5/29/06, 12:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vern, you are so right! My opinion for a while has been that club sports are killing our kids. Most high school athletic programs here in PA have a good athletic training program with an ATC and a team physician. The coaches are teachers and they coach because they care about the life lessons that sports can teach kids.

But club sports are horrible. A huge majority have NO health care program. Many of the coaches get paid quite well for their coaching. Some club coaches that I know of get paid well over $20k per year for coaching. Very few coaches at a high school can make that kind of money.

There is no incentive or program for club coaches to keep their athletes elligible (conduct or grades). Most coaches are there to teach the kids a sport (and get paid for it) not teach them life lessons.

Most club sports teams overlap with school sports programs. I have never seen a single club coach give a athlete any break for playing a school sport. In fact, many will discourage it actively or passively because it would mean less pay.

I could go on. But I wrap it up as I started, Club sports are killing our kids. The NATA, the NFHS and Pediatricians need to do something.

Paul LaDuke, MSS, ATC, CSCS
Lower Dauphin School District
Hummelstown, PA

At 5/29/06, 2:18 PM, Blogger Joe P. said...

Right on Paul. But you're wrong about the club teams having no health care program- they leech off of us high school ATC's.

I remember a few years ago Vern wrote a great article entitled "The volume trap" for T & C magazine. I think you can still find it online.

At 5/29/06, 2:22 PM, Blogger Joe P. said...

Vern- When you get a chance, your comments please on "AAU" sports. I've got pleanty of my own.

At 5/29/06, 3:42 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Vern and Joe,

In your professional opinions, which is worse - the current epedimic of childhood obesity or the epedimic of overuse and orthopaedic injuries in our JH athletes?

At 6/14/06, 7:44 AM, Anonymous Brian said...

"In your professional opinions, which is worse - the current epedimic of childhood obesity or the epedimic of overuse and orthopaedic injuries in our JH athletes?"

Because if kids aren't over-training then they're obese? While not stated, it is implied in the comment and sets up a false dichotomy that smacks of trolling.

- - - -

Vern's "child centric" comments on sports training to could extended to education in general which is, ironically, less and less about the kids and more about arbitrary standards.



Post a Comment

<< Home