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Will your young athlete be “off ” this summer?

When I say summer, what do you think of? I think of summers riding my bike, swimming in my neighbor’s pool and taking trips to the local convenience store for a Freezie.

No, I certainly wasn’t an athlete, I was a regular kid. I took tennis lessons in the mornings, but the afternoons were about going to the beach (if my sister would drive me), hanging out with friends and a general feeling of being relaxed and carefree. To be honest, there’s a part of me that is sad to know my kids will have a very different definition of summer.

Is summer becoming a competition season?

Two of them will spend the whole month of July training, perhaps even harder than they’ve trained all year, in their individual sports and pursuits.  And I’m not alone. I know some families are planning summer vacations around sporting events and competitions. (Let’s be real…that’s not a vacation!) What happened to the idea of letting our kids be off for the summer?

Maybe I should have known better. When I signed my kids up for these activities, maybe I should have realized that year-round training was expected, that this was part of the commitment. 

I guess, as parents, we could just say no. No to the hockey summer school, the volleyball training camp and the dance intensives. Just say no…it seems so simple, right? But would there be repercussions? Would your child be overlooked at fall tryouts? Will they be labeled as “lazy” for taking the summer off…or would the coaches question their commitment, since they didn’t have the drive to keep training all summer long and other athletes did?

Conflicting advice from experts and coaches

As parents, it’s confusing to know what to do. On the one hand, we’re told by our very own coaches and teachers that extra training over the summer is “strongly recommended.” Let’s face it…a dancer who doesn’t dance for 2-3 months certainly loses flexibility and technique. A swimmer who doesn’t swim in July loses a peak training period and the opportunity to compete in state, provincial and national meets they’ve been training all season for. A kid who wants to be a professional athlete or dancer will have to start training year-round at some point.

Yet, on the other hand, we keep hearing from the experts that kids today are training too much and too early. Early specialization and year-round training, they say, is hurting our kids…training them to be good at only one thing. We all know there’s a huge risk of burnout when anyone trains too intensely, especially kids!

A break from competition and training is vital

“My body and mind can not keep going without taking days/weeks/months in between big events,” says Ashley Wiles, an Ironman and the founder of Sole Girls. “I risk injury and burn out, taking time off lets me rebalance and come back stronger.”

I know many of you will say that this is what your kid wants to be doing, that he or she loves this one activity so much, they would do it all year long if you let them. But, maybe they just don’t know anything different? Maybe they’re afraid to try something new because they might not be any good at it?

“Teaching girls (and boys) to find a balance between rest and going all out can be a lifelong practice,” says Wiles. “Encourage (them) to try something new that may use different muscles or cardio than what they are used to – they might surprise themselves at what they learn!”

I guess it really is about balance and getting clear on what’s most important to your family.

Over the past few years, we’ve set aside two weeks in August to travel home and visit family. Though the dates fluctuate from year to year, those weeks are sacred to us. It’s quality down time and I hope we never feel pressured to give those up.

Seeing our kids swim in the lake, kneeboard, kayak and play soccer baseball with the grandparents is THE BEST! For us, it’s the best way we know how to balance the crazy training schedules of competitive sports. 

Do you agree with year-round training…how will your young athlete be spending his or her summer? I’d love to hear from you!

Michelle
 

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