I am a firm believer that life presents you mirrors, usually in the form of other people and situations, that cause us to reflect on self, your intentions and direction. Recently, I have had some big mirrors in my path. The first mirror was watching the documentary “Race to Nowhere” just days before going to my oldest son’s revisit to 2 prominent prep schools. The second mirror was in the situation of going to Philadelphia with my oldest son for his select lacrosse games. He played two games then we turned around and trekked home to Mass. At these games, on the sidelines, I was presented my third mirror. Most of the parents where talking about prep schools, who got in where, critiquing lacrosse programs, opportunities for “growth” and who was offered what Division 1 spot as a … brace yourself… Freshman and Sophomore in HIGH SCHOOL. This is all discussed as our talented and, let’s face it, entitled and privileged kids run around on the field for 2hours. Finally, the fourth mirror came when revisiting the Prep schools my 8th grade son was accepted to: One, an academically renowned and challenging school with strong lacrosse, which he could handle, but at what cost…balance? The other, an athletic super power where academics have fallen some, yet appears to have a balance of student life. PS, our public school is academically rigorous if you seek it, athletically mediocre and balance poor. In the midst of being confronted by these mirrors, I hear of several young kids in select baseball and basketball bragging about their being on the A team or All star team. I hear of kids with their second or third sports related injury, usually from overuse, who see my husband, the orthopedist, and want to know how soon they can play. Then there is the child who had sustained a concussion over vacation, but kept it from coach because they want to play. Hello?… who is looking out for these kids and helping them gain perspective and balance. There is a great blog I read by an ER doctor from the midwest called “Your kid and my kid are not playing in the pros” www.nuvo.net. He poses some good points. Are we fear driven, fear of being left behind or “un-important” that causes us to allow our child’s health and wellbeing to be compromised? What is the end game? Where do we go from here? Have we lost perspective?
According to the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons, there has been an increase in the number of sports related and overuse injuries in kids. They talk in their blog, “Overuse injuries in children”, about participation in sports, traditionally, being seasonal and mainly to provide for the physical and emotional well being of kids as well as to create life long habits of exercise. Instead, kids are specializing at young ages when a modicum of talent is shown and they are overtrained, all year long. They subsequently over use and stress the same muscle groups, neglecting other muscle groups which leads to muscle imbalance, muscle and joint strain and injury. Not to mention that this specializing and showcasing at a young age (before adolescents) often leads to family and character imbalance, entitlement, elitism and unrealistic expectation which can lead to disappointment and a sense of failure not to mention burn out down the road. The research from the Stop Sports Injuries organization show kids (and adults) push their bodies to extremes, with minimal recovery time and they lose sight of what is important… Their health and balance.
Having a child who plays 2 seasons of lacrosse since 7th grade, I get the push to do more- usually coming from the child. However… we, as parents, need to set some limits and teach balance and moderation. We need to say no to some opportunities, even if others are doing it, for the sake of their well being, our family well being and balance. I truly feel that specializing before the child is even developed- before middle school even, is excessive. It sends the wrong message to our kids and peers of our kids and can often lead to burn out by high school not to mention elitism, entitlement, and injury from over use. Kids need to be kids, have down time, and, more important, learn to play with kids of all levels with respect, sportsmanship and teamwork. They need to know how to win with grace as well as lose with it. We ALL need to slow down, take a reality check, reconnect as a family and start focusing on developing character instead of talent. Reflect… what is our intention? Will we facilitate open doors for our child? Is it to instill confidence and a feeling of accomplishment? Is it to get into a good college? Is it for US or for THEM? Do THEY want it? Are they happy or stressed out of their mind? Are they able to just have fun and be kids? Can you see the big picture? Start with looking in those mirrors. What do YOU see?