Time Out

What does it take for your child to have a healthy balance between sports, academics and a social life?

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    Kat Monk

Sports can build a child’s or teen’s self-esteem and keep them from taking the wrong path in high school. The participation rate of today’s kids playing sports has reached an all-time high, with many kids starting as early as preschool and playing through high school and beyond.  

It comes as no surprise that sports aimed at young children and teens have become a booming industry. Kids play AYSO, Little League baseball, youth basketball, volleyball … the list goes on. They play club sports, middle school and high school sports, and have private trainers and strength trainers.

And these sports often come at a price—financial and otherwise. Parents can spend $5,000 to $20,000 a year on their child’s sport. Injuries have become very common among high school athletes—in part because of repetitive use. Coaches might demand that kids miss important milestones such as family vacation, school field trips and even graduation ceremonies.  

According to a recent NCAA report, less than 1% of high school athletes go on to play a NCAA sport in college. So how do you know if your child is within that 1%?  

"Injuries have become very common among high school athletes—in part because of repetitive use. Coaches might demand that kids miss important milestones such as family vacation, school field trips and even graduation ceremonies." 

According to Kashi Walmer, a certified sports agent who has coached girls volleyball at Mizuno for the last 15 years, “When you’re playing sports at any level and you’re competitive, you think you’re in that 1%. You don’t know you’re not until you’ve already given most of your life.”

Jon Reichardt, Mira Costa’s water polo coach, says, “Athletes sometimes have a hard time balancing their workload. They have a clear understanding what their priorities are: family first, academics, then sports, then social life. Most kids do a great job and after the first year either figure it out or they go into another sport.”  

He adds, “The past few years, more and more kids are realizing how hard it is to play at a Division 1 level. We have kids that could absolutely play at a higher level but choose not to just because of the commitment. More and more kids are choosing the club system in college because it is not as big of a commitment and is not under the NCAA rules.”

So how do our athletes keep a healthy balance? Downtime. When playing a high school sport, an athlete can play and/or train up to 25 hours a week. In order to avoid burnout—and to prevent and recover from injuries—it is very important to have downtime.

And we must listen to our teen athletes. They will ultimately be the ones navigating this path toward their future. Mira Costa sophomore Bobby Barkley advises parents: “Don’t burn out your child by getting them involved in too much of one thing.”

According to Bobby, who started playing basketball and volleyball in first grade, to achieve balance one must “get good grades first and then worry about sports. Focus on what needs to be done and try not to get distracted.”

Amy Frank is a mother of four. Her son Kai, a Mira Costa High School alum, was a top soccer player with a club team. By his senior year, mostly Division III schools were recruiting him.

Amy states, “Bigger schools were going to require more dedication and effort on his part, which he didn’t feel like giving. The kids on his club team were going to be first family members to go to college. They had hunger and drive.”

But Kai knew he would have school choices with his grades, and he felt he could go to a better school with those grades. “He misses soccer but has never regretted his decision,” she adds. “It was tougher for me. I really thought he would play after high school. Another lesson learned. Things change, and I gotta go with the flow.”



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