Do You Push Your 10 Year Old To Be An Olympian?

When I was watching the movie The Tooth Fairy last week, it really got me thinking about how some people push their kids so hard into sports at such an early age.  I heard one 10 year old parents talk about their kid being in the next Olympics (when their not even the best at their sport that I know). 

Here’s some examples of what I’ve seen which seem wrong:

  • A 6-year old that is home schooled so he has more time for private lessons in his sport
  • A kid who is only rewarded if she sets 3 records this summer
  • A kid who is paid to beat certain people at her sport
  • A kid who is punished by extra practice if she doesn’t perform perfectly
  • Multiple kids playing on 2 or 3 different teams simulateously in the same sport
  • Kids training 4-5 hours per day / 6 days a week at age 9

I see more and more parents (of kids under 11) video tapping their performances and then breaking down their play after they perform with them.  The focus is always on the negative.  As I heard one kid say, “be my parent not my coach”.  I think that’s important.  Parents can’t project their expectations of paying for college and fame on their kids at such an early age. 

This leads to self-esteem issues.  It leads to burnout.  It leads to over training.  And, it can lead to false expectations that manifest themselves in poor sportsmanship. 

For example, I know one kid that my kid has to compete with came up to her and said “why are competing on this team…I can’t win if you compete”.  Never mind the team spirit.  This kid wants the personal recognition even in a category that she doesn’t compete in year-round, but she thinks she should be a star in whatever she does.  This is what leads kids to cheat and be bullies. 

Here’s a few other articles on this topic:

Here’s a quote from an interview with David Ellis a sports nutritionist about specializing too early:

Early bloomers typically have an advantage on these AAA teams, and while they dominate the domestic stage with their early maturity and specialization, they are not as competitive on the international stage once other competitors have matured. In fact there is evidence that the athlete who didn’t specialize early and was a little later in maturation might end up being the better athlete! Why you ask?

That multi-sport athlete kept on developing motor skills and competitive vision that might have been more challenging in totality than the narrowed focus of the specialized athlete. These multi-sport athletes are hungry to compete as they approach their prime, and because many were late bloomers, they had to be smarter players to make up for their lack of size and strength. So when their bodies do catch up maturation-wise, they often times have a sharper set of skills, and the net result is an athlete who has the tools and the motivation to compete at an elite level versus the burn out early specialized athlete who often seems to have peaked too early and below their net potential.

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