As a cardiologist and advocate for healthy living through exercise, the bleak news of rising childhood obesity hits me hard. But as an endurance athlete well versed in the inflammatory effects of excessive exercise, and a coach of middle school children, recent news reports on the overtraining of American youth is equally troublesome.
The overtraining of the young American athlete has risen to the level of capturing the attention of the American Academy of Pediatrics. I planned on letting this New York Times piece pass quietly, as yet another documentation of how adults are either explicitly or implicitly drilling out the young athlete — sacrificing fun at the alter of performance. Little League-like overzealousness is old news dating back to my era, I thought. But I just couldn’t help myself. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*
I used to feel guilty when I would say “no thanks” but not any more. I no longer by the line: “Ok…but you do know she might get behind…many of the other kids do continue for the summer.”
I’m ok with it…and so are my kids. And, you know what, not once have they “fallen behind” in any of their activities, even the ones they are at the top of their game on, in sports or in the arts.
It’s a myth that the sports world is the only world with year ‘round pressure. The music and arts worlds have it, too. Those worlds, in fact, can be more insidious about it because it’s done under the guise of “enrichment” and “culture”. The 24/7 wear and tear on our kids bodies, minds, and souls is, nonetheless, the same as with a ‘year round sport and it’s time music, dance and other fine arts parents recognize that their kids, too, need an off season.
The way to look at it is that any school year after school activity that occupies a great deal of time and focus and goes on for most of the school year, or more than 1 celestial season, requires an off season. The model is in the pro worlds. Pro athletes get off seasons and professional dancers and musicians do take breaks from the intense rigor of their professional season.
Our children have 1 childhood and only so much time in it to explore themselves and pursue activities that interest them. Given how much of the school year’s schedule is dictated by adults, the summer is the best time to hand over the reins to our kids and find out what they want to do and make it happen. The summer is the most perfect time to spread wings and try on something new, something that they may have had to shelve by necessity during the school year.
So, don’t buy into the “she’ll get behind” line – in sports or in the arts. Give your kids the off season this summer they deserve. Just like the off season in the pro worlds, kids use the time so productively that by the time they return to their beloved passions, they have a new found energy, zeal and focus. The rust will come off amazingly quickly and they’ll surge ahead again as if the summer never occurred.
Why not just keep on going, you ask? You could…but you may end up turning an activity your kids love into a complete grind and burn them out entirely. Plus, injury rates increase dramatically in sports and the arts when kids don’t have a break. Musicians and dancers put wear and tear on their bodies just like athletes, but with different muscle groups. Those areas of their bodies need to rest and rehab, in addition to their minds and souls having a chance to not focus so intensely for a while.
Childhood isn’t about specialization, it’s about variety. We’ve forgotten that along the way, and our kids’ bodies and spirits are paying a steep price.
*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Gwenn Is In*