Time Commitment of Year-Round Prep Sports Forces Multisport Athletes to Specialize – Mitchell Republic
Sports and summer have long been a happy marriage for kids in South Dakota.
But now there is a sporting overload that pulls young athletes in multiple directions. Overtime commitments driven by rising expectations, coupled with a multitude of summer activities and jobs, have led some children to file for divorce.
National participation in high school sports fell for the first time in 30 years, according to a 2019 National Federation of State High School Associations, while the number of children ages 6 to 12 participating in sports increased. declined for more than a decade.
A greater desire for sports scholarships has led to increased specialization in one sport throughout the year. In return, South Dakota high school athletic teams created year-round programs in an effort to recoup specialist losses and stay competitive during the season.
Simply put: Many young South Dakota athletes don’t move freely between sports despite coaches encouraging them to do so. The reason? It’s just easier to focus on a sport while already overloaded with technology, education and training.
“Hopefully as they get older they have the mentality that they want to be two- or three-sport athletes and they’re going to try to balance the summer schedule,” Mitchell’s baseball coach said, Luke Norden. “The guys in a sport don’t help any program, because even the athletes in a sport have found out in the long run that it probably didn’t benefit them much. Working on becoming an athlete is what kids need to do.
The majority of the Mitchell Post 18 Legion baseball team was made up of multi-sport athletes, but playing 42 games in two months already limits the time that can be allocated elsewhere. Many kids have to choose between summer jobs and sports — teens also spend an average of nine hours a day on social media, according to the Pew Research Center — but add the in-demand summer workouts in other sports and there is little time left for anything else.
While Mitchell’s baseball numbers remained largely intact, other sports were impacted. The Kernels have graduated six seniors in three seasons on the basketball team, which has played a major role in the drop in production until this season.
“They feel like they’re going to fall behind in a sport, so they feel like they have to choose,” Mitchell boys’ basketball coach Ryker Kreutzfeldt said. “I think it depends on us as coaches. We need to find different ways of doing things to make it easier to be a multi-sport athlete, because we can’t afford to lose as many kids in every sport as we are now.
Helping children balance their sports may be the most critical aspect of developing multi-sport athletes, but it’s also the most challenging.
Sanford Health’s senior performance psychology specialist Andy Gillham says there’s often a disconnect between players and coaches, who sometimes don’t understand – rightly or wrongly – what kids want. If teens already spend seven to nine hours a day consuming media, that cuts their time even further.
When kids have the opportunity to participate in more non-athletic activities with friends or earn money at work, spending an hour in a weight room, an hour in the gym, and then several hours at a game baseball don’t always add up. during summer.
He draws a comparison to college athletes, who are limited to 20 hours of athletic time per week by the NCAA to create balance.
“If the college athlete who is obviously older, a little more cultured, mature, can only compete for 20 hours a week, we have to be a little more careful about the 15-year-old high school athlete who is under time available because of the school day,” Gillham said. “Also, their prep sport takes 23 to 25 hours a week. That’s more time than middle schoolers spend who have more time available. For To me, it’s as much a stress issue for athletes as anything else.”
Gillham, however, also points out that it is ultimately the parents who pay for equipment, registration fees, travel and camps and that they must be more in tune with the wishes of their children. Although high school coaches also tend to be more concerned with the personal well-being of students than coaches in college and professional sports, they must manage entire rosters and winning is still imperative to keep their jobs.
“The entity that’s there for financial gain, even if it’s to pay the coach’s salary, that’s not necessarily going to do what’s best and right for the individual athlete,” Gillham said. “For me, it all comes down to education. We need to understand what is best for the athlete and how we can help coaches and administrators keep that in mind and what resources can we provide parents to navigate those conversations.
Thus, parents become the decision makers of what is in the best interest of their children’s mental and physical health. Are the negatives worth recklessly pushing when 2% of the 8 million high school athletes receive a scholarship?
Studies have shown that children who spend more hours per week playing sports than their age are 70% more likely to sustain an overuse injury. Additionally, children who play sports for eight months of the year are three times more likely to suffer from excessive hip or knee injuries.
“If we’re talking about the stress of an individual athlete and an individual family, we need to help parents stand up for that individual athlete and that individual family,” Gillham said. “It can’t just fall on the coach, who has a much wider responsibility – his own family and the whole roster of athletes.”
To combat the specialization and time consuming of athletes and coaches, Bon Homme offers a unique muscle building and conditioning program open to all boys and girls. Since strength and conditioning applies to all sports, coaches were all able to get on board with the plan.
Longtime Cavalier football coach Byron Pudwill compared the program to how learning to read and write helps in all facets of life. Being stronger, faster and more agile applies to all sports offered at school.
“With the advent of 7 on 7 (soccer camps), team camps — pick a sport, there’s a camp for that — it’s kind of like following the Joneses,” Pudwill said. “We have 44 boys (in the strength program) and the girls doing their own thing and that will apply to anything. … We welcome non-football players and there is no sport where the coach wants you to be stronger.
Regardless of the turnout trend, Pudwill thinks the days of summers being dominated by basketball or soccer games and sand baseball are over for good. Practices and structured camps seem to be the permanent replacement, and despite the positives that arise, he doesn’t think consistent structure is always good.
“Everything is so supervised now,” Pudwill said. “…When we played, there were never any adults around and we learned some good life lessons. When you didn’t have your mom and dad to protect you, you learned to haste. There were some things you could say and do and some things you couldn’t say and do. Those life skills helped a lot.