June 2017

A Father’s Perspective on Kids Being Multisport Athletes

 

BY JIM AIELLO 

Real Estate Agent, 704-458-8481

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

My 2 daughters have been training with Coach George Maoury for over 4 years. They both play ice hockey and up until their first years in high school, that is the only sport they played and their only other physical fitness was off season training with George. George and I were talking one day about the importance of playing multiple sports at a young age and how I am seeing the benefits with my two kids,he asked that I share my experience with his athletic community.

So here it goes.

Full disclosure first. I am not a trainer, coach, or own any kind of sport or fitness anything – I am a realtor and I have no professional training in any kind of fitness nor writing on a fitness blog – real estate contracts, yes, but nothing on sports and fitness. When it comes to kids’ sports I would say my one and only strength and knowledge on the subject is writing checks for whichever sport the kids are ready to play. What I am writing about in this article is based on my and mine alone experiences going down the road of kids sports. I do read a lot on the subject but anything in this article is just what I have read and I am sharing.

As a parent of student athletes, I have read countless articles and blogs on the importance of playing different sports. Different muscles used, giving the muscles from the previous season’s sports a rest as not to over train a specific muscle group that will lead up to injury, training different eye hand coordination movements, and just as important, avoiding burn out.

The proof seems to be very much for it – all the data, studies, and top notch coaches, athletes, and trainers seem overwhelming for it – Urban Meyer, head coach of Ohio State Football is said to only draft players who have played multiple sports. Wayne Gretzky (our favorite!), the great one, who one would think lives hockey year round was quoted as saying that when he was growing up, by the end of the hockey season, he couldn’t wait to put down his hockey stick and pick up his lacrosse stick, and in summer, he couldn’t wait to play baseball. And for trainers, there is Mike Boyle who is a world class trainer out of the Boston area. He was asked by a father of a 12 year old what he could do in the summer to get his son better for the following fall hockey season. He told the father to go to the store and buy a couple of fishing poles and bikes and have fun.

I have also read interviews with orthopedic surgeons as well as speaking to some friends who are physical trainers and a sports chiropractor and they all say business is booming. They are seeing kids younger and younger and doing procedures/rehabbing on them all from the overuse of their muscles due to early specialization.

So, what Coach Urban Meyer looks for in players who are multisport athletes should be some pretty strong facts to have your kid not specialize early, right? Definitely for mine, even though they won’t ever play college football but all makes sense so I am in. But wait! I was sent a note in the middle of the hockey season from a coach saying that he/she can get your player “to the next level” (that seems to be the quote of the decade!), and can share the secret of how to get a D1 scholarship if you go to his/her camps (yes, plural), over the summer. Well of course I want my kid to get to the next level! I mean, my kid has to get ready to compete for a coveted spot on the travel team which starts in 9 months in the hockey mecca of the world, Charlotte, NC. And as for D1 – well a coach this past year asked the girls team in a meeting, who wants to play division 1 hockey. All raised their hands (of course!). He then asked why. Nobody had an answer. He then asked who wants to play more than just hockey in college. All again raised their hands. Well you can’t do that if you play division 1 hockey. The girls were shocked. He then listed several division 3 schools that any parent would want their kid to go to in a heartbeat for the amazing education (not going to make a living playing women’s hockey), Amherst, Colby, Smith, Middlebury to name a few off the top of his head. You can play hockey (and actually play as opposed to being on the fourth line on a division 1 team), and a spring sport and still get an amazing education. My point to all this is that all these camps and media are whipping parents into a frenzy of getting their kid into a division 1 school, they are losing site of what is most important which includes their health.

But for what appears to be overwhelming support for multisport player versus specializing early in most sports, there continues to be an explosion of early specialization within sports. Fall ball for summer sports, 16 week hockey/skating camps starting in spring (hockey season is usually August/September through mid March), combines, showcases – something for everyone to continue to play the same sport year round – and for parents to write checks for. The coaches/owners of these camps tell parents (I am speaking from experience and I can absolutely say that it is very easy to get caught up with all the hype), that if your kid doesn’t play their sport over the break, they will fall behind. Parents see other parents putting their kids in and feel the pressure to do the same for their kid for fear their kid will fall behind and won’t be picked for a travel team the following season.

I happened to be in line waiting for coffee and I wound up starting a chat with the gentleman in front of me (he had his daughters with him so instant conversation as I had mine with me), who happened to be a Division 1 Diving Team coach. It was amazing conversation for me as I listened to his dedication to the sport and his school (also very aware it is a business, you don’t win, you don’t work), how he was feeling guilty for taking a full week off to visit family which took him away from his job as he never took that much time off. But as we talked, the one thing he said that really stuck out in my mind was him saying to take the summer off from your sport. As noted above, we read these articles about people from schools and research centers telling us this but when you actually talk to someone who is involved in top level sports confirming everything you read about in person, to me, that really hit home. He said he has seen burnout in his sport as kids start younger and younger every year and then are burned out by the time they are 10 or 11 years old. He again emphasized to take time away from your sport, anyone pushing you to have your kid attend their off season camp/clinics/leagues are doing so for the money. Now he did not say sit around on the couch all summer and watch TV either – I know for my kids, it is working out with Coach George and the benefits there have been amazing.

Now, back to my personal experience of being a dad of 2 multisport athletes. I had encouraged my daughters to try a different sport in the offseason since they were 6 and 7 years old. Not only would it be great for all the reasons mentioned above, but they would meet new friends, which after all, isn’t that a huge reason to get involved?

They had zero interest in any other sport. They tried lacrosse about 4 years ago but it did not wow them – they just loved their hockey. Then came high school. My oldest daughter joined the cross country team and immediately loved every second of it. She made friends which helped her social transition into high school. With her training, which was not just go out and run 5 miles which would have no benefits for her hockey season outside of endurance (as we know, hockey is a game of explosiveness, quick starts, direction changes, quick stops.  You have 1 or maybe 2 minute shifts followed by 2/3 minute breaks, you skate as hard as you can while out on the ice so jogging long distance will really not help your conditioning for hockey.), but in fact, it was a whole lot more than go outside and run some miles There are sprints to be run, strength training (and from working with Coach George, she knows how to correctly lift so she won’t injure herself and get the maximum results while training), and yoga. When the season ended and she transitioned to hockey, what a difference the cross country training made! Not only was she physically stronger and faster, but her drive to compete was nothing like it was ever before. I could not believe how much her school sport helped her physically and mentally in hockey.

With my 2nd daughter, cross country was not for her but a friend encouraged her to join the high school lacrosse team. Her teammates were immediately welcoming and she wound up loving the sport. At the end of lacrosse season she had the opportunity to try out for a hockey camp. I was a bit weary as she had not been on the ice for over a month nor has she picked up a hockey stick to even just stick handle or shoot some pucks in the driveway and she would be competing against the best girls in the southeast. But once she jumped on the ice, the fierceness in her competitiveness was something I had not seen before (she has always been a competent and efficient defender, strong on the puck and defending in front of her net – thanks to George’s weight training, but her aggressive play was quite surprising to me). Her positioning was spot on as was her willingness to charge the net and take calculated chances on her decision making. I had not seen that before in her play and absolutely attribute that to her lacrosse playing. I can’t wait to see to her play in the fall when she starts up her hockey season. Without a doubt, both girls received overwhelming benefits from playing sports away from hockey.

As mentioned above, I was talking with Coach George about all this and he asked if I wanted to put down on paper what we talked about – a dad’s perspective. We all read the stats and quotes, and data but to actually experience what you read about, he encouraged me to share with his athletic family. I have fully bought into the benefits of multisport involvement based on what I have witnessed with my two girls over the past year. Good luck to your kids and enjoy the ride of them playing youth sports, boy does the time fly by!!!


 

 

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