Everyone seems to be getting busier. For young athletes this means playing a sport or perhaps multiple sports every season. When I was a kid I would count the passing of time as much from the sports calendar as I did from the actual passing of seasons. When it got too cold to play football and soccer we turned indoors to the basketball court. As the ground began to thaw it was time for baseball and soccer again. Summertime was reserved for the elite travel teams. And the before you know it you are strapping on your pad again for football season.
It can give life a nice rhythm but it can be a little grueling. Season to season and year to year of wall-to-wall sports doesn’t give kids much time for rest or reflection. Before you know it you’re going to college and unless you’re one of the top athletes you won’t be scheduled to the max with athletics. It’s good to take time off once in a while to figure out what you want so when the structure of childhood ends you’ll know how to move forward.
Season to Season
When we overschedule ourselves or our children we can get into a mindset where we are always looking ahead to the next activity. In terms of sports this means we are always looking ahead to the next season and trying to be prepared. But how can we be prepared if we never have time off to think about what we need? It can be easy to go from one sport to the next without ever questioning if you really want to keep playing. The pressure to get ready and be in shape is never-ending so unless we take a step back and breathe we will never have time to figure out what we want.
One Sport or Many?
Nowadays everything is a bit more specialized. You can play one sport all year if you are good enough. Because everyone wants to be the best, play against the best competition, eventually get the best college scholarship, it can seem like a good idea to put all your effort into one sport. But there are drawbacks. A friend of mine growing up was an avid soccer player. He was the best in the school. he played in-town soccer in the fall and spring and travel soccer at a higher level in the winter and summer. He never had a break. It was just soccer all year round.
One issue though, is that every sport is repetitive. Whether you’re a swimmer or a soccer player you will be doing the same motions over and over again. So my friend who was playing soccer every season developed knee problems. He didn’t have any variety from season to season with what he was doing with his body: just running, dribbling, and kicking. So eventually his body had enough.
There is something to be said for switching things up. You can get injured in any sport but the repetitive injuries that can take a long time to heal tend to happen if you’re too focused on one sport in particular.
When is There Time to Rest?
The schedule of modern-day athletics doesn’t give us time to rest. This is problematic for the injury-prone athletes. It may seem counterintuitive but many of the actions we engage in in sports are not natural for our bodies. Our arms are not meant to be stretched back and whipped forward over our heads to throw a ball. This puts a lot of stress on the shoulder and elbow. We are not meant to surge forward with our entire bodies and crash our head and shoulders into another person as we do when making a block. This can cause spinal issues because of the compression of the vertebrae.
This is not to say that sports are too dangerous and should be avoided. But we should acknowledge that engaging in athletics has consequences and it essential to treat your body right and give it a break. If you don’t allow your body time to rest you may find yourself with injuries down the line.
There can be a lot of pressure nowadays to always keep busy. It’s important to remember that we play sports for fun. There are some of us who will make a living someday from throwing a ball. But most of us need to grow up to be healthy and live lives outside of sports. Spending all your growing up years involved in competition can be wearing and not all that useful. And in some cases it can have negative long-term effects to your body. So every once in a while take a step back, take some time off and make sure that you’re in it for the right reasons and you’re taking care of yourself.