Some time ago a friend and fellow coach asked me, “When you were 8-12 years old, how many sports related injuries did you have.”
“None,” I replied.
“And how many of the boys you played with during that time do you remember being injured,” he continued.
“None,” I replied again.
“So what do you think the difference is in today’s youth,” he asked.
There were many reasons the two of us uncovered that day, and it was NOT a short conversation. Along with each reason we spoke about, there were stories that would make most peoples’ eyes bulge.
Today, I’m not going to get into ALL the reasons, but I will list five that I think all parents would be wise to consider.
Reason #1 – Most young athletes today are physically weaker than they were in my day.
When I was a youth, the only major distraction was the idiot box – and there were only three channels: ABC, CBS and NBC. Cable arrived when I was in
This means that youngsters were outdoors playing much of the time. We didn’t have computer gadgets, cell phones, ipods, apps to play with and so on. So we went outside and ran, jumped, swam and played ball.
Reason #2 – Food was more nutritious than it is today.
You weren’t eating GMO corn, soy and other altered foods that are abundant in almost everything youngsters eat today.
In my home, we didn’t drink soda except for on holidays. Fast food was something you might have once a week.
Today, you’ll see young boys carrying a Mickey Dee’s bag on an almost daily basis and drinking several sodas per day.
The parents think it’s good food and beveraage, their children agree – and I’m sure this kind of “nutrition” doesn’t harm your body in the least – right?
Ever see people who NEVER drink water. Growing up, I never knew such people existed. But I’ve watched adults, as well as children who never drink anything other than soda – diet or otherwise.
Seriously, since when was your body 70% soda. Drinking all that carbonated and artificially flavored and sweetened crap couldn’t possible break your body down and lead to injury, could it?
Soda does a body good.
Reason #3 – Year round competition in various sports with zero to minimal off-season.
Young boys and girls are being driven relentlessly by fathers and mothers who, most of the time, were NOT great athletes themselves. Many of these parents want their child to get a scholarship to play in college – so they push and push and push – with no real world knowledge of when to train and when
Rest isn’t in their vocabulary – and the child suffers the damage.
Reason #4 – Overuse
Many injuries we are seeing in sports are definitely due to over-use. Others are due to over-use AFTER under-use. By this I mean, you haven’t been training, you’re not in condition, and the coach puts you in to throw a ton of pitches in a game.
Then there’s the just plain over-use issue.
Last weekend, for example, I watched a young boy throw 62 pitches in game one of a two-day baseball tournament. The first game he threw in was “pool play” – a game that would be used to seed the teams for the real tournament the following day.
Our team lost to this team 5-4.
And the next day we faced them again in the first round match-up. Guess who the head coach put into the game as their starter? Same boy.
He threw at least 100 pitches against us and we rocked his world, winning with ease, 12-4.
During the game I spoke with another parent who told me this coach has already had at least three boys get Tommy John surgery. And not when they were grown men either.
Reason #5 – Child Abuse by Coaches and Parents
Now, this one may come as a shocker to you, but the coach I spoke with considers it “child abuse” when a coach or parent doesn’t protect his son or daughter from what he SHOULD know is dangerous.
The key word in caps – SHOULD – is a tough one. Yes, coaches should know better –
but many of them don’t.
Frankly, many coaches at the youth level are Dad’s who want to make sure their child gets preferential treatment, also known as “daddy ball.” And they don’t just want their child to play, they want him to be #1.
Nothing wrong with wanting your child to excel. But there is an issue when your child is hurt – and you make him keep playing – and he gets hurt worse.
I know a coach who’s son broke his wrist last Spring in a game. It was a freak accident to an otherwise injury-free athlete. The father wisely sat the boy until his arm was healed – even though he knew it hurt his chances of winning any more games.
I’ve seen other fathers/coaches handle other injuries that are far worse, in a very different manner. And it’s not pretty.
If you’re Derek Jeter, and you’re being paid millions per year – and you decide to ignore your injury and your pain and play anyway, at least you can say you’re an adult and you accept the potential consequences. A child cannot be placed in the same category as a Jeter.
Another friend has a son who hurt his elbow throwing a ball to second base. He immediately walked to the dugout and removed himself from the game. The father and son took six weeks off, strengthening the arm until he was pain free. And you know what, other parents and coaches thought they were nuts. They begged the father to let his son play because the team needed him.
The father said, “For what. For a 12-year old tournament. Nah, I don’t think so. What my son does after 12 is far more important.”
We need more like him guiding the youth of today.
Here endeth today’s message.
P.S. Want your child to be physically fit for sports, then put him on Combat Conditioning – it works for all sports, including basketball, football, softball, wrestling and baseball.
About Matt Furey
Matt Furey is the author of the international best-selling Combat Conditioning, Combat Abs, The Unbeatable Man and Expect to Win, Hate to Lose.
Furey won the 1985 NCAA II national wrestling title (167-pounds) and the gold medal (90kg) at the 1997 Shuai-Chiao kung fu world championships.
As well, Furey is president of The Psycho-Cybernetics Foundation.
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