Someone posted an article the other day about travel youth sports and the impact it has on young athletes. Well today, I’ll give my two cents on the matter with what I do and definitely don’t like.
Too much specialization- With travel club teams, we see athletes specializing in sports way too soon in my opinion. This often leads to athletes plateauing earlier than they normally would in their chosen sport. I get it, I had a favorite sport too when I was younger and could not get enough. Guess what though, it wasn’t rugby, it was hockey. If I had not branched out to other things, I definitely would not have found the glorious oval ball of rugby (still a big hockey fan mind you). When athletes crossover to other sports they find new skills that can be implemented into their “main” sport that they certainly would not have developed otherwise. I’m not saying every athlete that does multiple sports will turn into Lebron James or Bryce Harper, but it certainly will help them achieve full potential of their ability.
Higher risk for overuse- Building off the above, ever heard of overuse injuries? Yeah, they’re happening at younger and younger ages because of things like travel clubs. Yes, overuse injuries are literally as they are described. Simply the sheer volume of a single action can cause problems down the road, and not that far down the road lately. Even if an athlete does something else, simply to manage the volume of certain actions, it’ll help them tremendously. Less time on the athletic trainers table or laid up in bed, more time enjoying their sports and getting better at them.
Less free play and free time- Free play is coming back slowly but has been wildly underrated for years and years. Free play evokes some sort of creativity in athletes, especially for the sake of ball sports. Think back to the last unbelievable piece of skill you saw an athlete do. Do you think they just did things like that in games and practices? Of course not, they likely tried it in some sort of pick-up game scenario and said “no big deal if this doesn’t come off, it’s just pick up” or you know something like that. I can tell you for me, I give periods of practice where players are encouraged to try stuff and make mistakes, but still I’m watching them so they probably hold back, athletes need creativity in their game. Also, let kids be kids, I probably sound like an old grouch there, but doesn’t mean I’m wrong. Give them time to be kids.
Some goods- The upside of traveling like this often leads to traveling in cars with parents or friends’ parents. Often this produces forced conversations. Whether that’s with a parent or a friend, it will get them to talking to some capacity. Communication like this actually tends to bring out some stronger bonds between these people, can’t be mad about that. Also, there does tend to be a nice community aspect to these clubs, always a good thing to lean on.
For the most part, I see more downside to upside with these travel clubs (also helloooo money money). Call me biased, but in my opinion, playing different sports mixed in with some resistance training is more likely to see an athlete reach their true potential. I do hope some found this informative or at least interesting, enjoy the week everyone and thanks for reading!
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Jarrod Dyke, CSCS