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3 Reasons Why It Can Be a Good Thing to Take a Break From Your Sport

The best ways to prevent injuries and burnout in athletes is to diversify their athletic activities and give mandatory breaks. Taking a break from competitive sports is especially important for young athletes, ages 10-18. The off-season is a critical rest period in youth sports. It is a time needed to slow down and refresh both mind and body.

From sports to the demands of school, the pressure on young athletes is on the rise, so giving them a break is imperative. Our kids are stressed out, and ensuring we address the source of the stress is imperative to maintaining good mental health.

Can you imagine focusing in a tournament or game when you are worried about your calculus test or all the homework you have to do after or whether or not you'll be invited to the "cool girl" sweet sixteen party? If awareness and attention aren’t given to the level of stress an athlete is experiencing, the less likely your student athlete will find enjoyment and reach peak performance.

For example, I've noticed many student athletes jumping from football practice to travel ball practice, and then the next day to all-star practice and then performance training, etc. No wonder these kids are exhausted! As dreams and the quest for college scholarships are vigorously pursued, little time is left for an actual off-season, and to enjoy being a kid.

Here are three reasons why it's a good thing for young athletes to take a break from their sport.

1. Growing Bodies

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, young people should not specialize in one sport before adolescence. Youth athletic teams tend to overuse growing and developing tendons and ligaments by performing repetitive motions in their sport, which can affect growth patterns and more. Pitchers and quarterbacks are especially prone to overuse injuries, and I personally have seen way too many teen baseball players recovering from Tommy John surgeries.

Other studies show how intense training can adversely impact youth athletes. Some of those affects include placing undue stress on the heart and the entire cardiac system, and promoting musculoskeletal injuries which can affect growth. For baseball and fastpitch players, consider lowering pitch counts, bull pens, and more, to avoid damaging the athlete's range of motor skills.

At the end of the day, Coaches who understand the importance of appropriate rest between training and in the off-season will enjoy better performance from their team during the season.

2. Mental Health

Young teens are not emotionally and psychologically equipped to handle the constant pressure of training longer and harder. Also, travel sports are intense competitions and particularly stressful for young athletes. It’s important for coaches, parents and trainers to understand the potential sources of stress and the warning signs, and taking a break from the sport serves to distance the stress levels and prevent a mental burnout.

To off-set the stress, it is critical for youth athletic teams to have some type of off-season built into the year. Rest periods between seasons should also be scheduled, so student athletes can explore other interests - theater, music, art, another sport, etc.

Dr. Howard Luks, an orthopedic surgeon at Westchester Medical Center in New York, sees mental burnout, in addition to the rising physical injuries, often among student athletes. He believes parents need to be aware that their athletes need breaks from their sports, for their physical safety, not to mention that they may lose interest and quit.

3. Fun

Kids should have fun away from organized sports. If they want to engage in other sports during their free time, let them - exploration and experimentation is part of growing up. Besides, with the increased demands of tournaments and travel put on young athletes, and decreased time for free play, there is a greater risk for sports to become another demand, rather than enjoyable, and no one wants that. Taking a break allows young athletes to be with friends outside their sport, broaden their social circles, and more.

Coaches who do the right things to keep student athletes healthy and active in their sports also tend to encourage healthy and active adults. Our job as coaches, trainers, and parents is to give our student athletes the tools they need to be healthy, positive contributors as adults, so let's try to remember they're kids - let them be kids and have some fun outside their sport!

Resources:

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/106/1/154

https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/adolescence

http://espnw.ly/VAHDJ9C9

http://iyca.org/stress-on-young-athletes/

Melissa Pranzo is the Founder of SwingFitt™ and Swing4All.org. She is a licensed RMT trainer, a life-long elite athlete, and lover of life and sports. Melissa and her son, Cooper, live in Tampa where SwingFitt™ and Swing4All.org are based.

#studentathlete #mentalhealth #overtraining #performancefitness #athleticperformance

Tel: +1 813-551-2255

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