The older sibling was not at our 10 year old team training. He was waiting at the car with him mother, waiting for his younger brother to finish.
The mother said to me:
"Did you know that ‘Peter’* did a grade two strain of his calf on the weekend?"
The boy’s 12 years old. It’s his second serious injury.
I just looked at the ground, bit my lip, and gently shook my head. What could I say? I hear this every day. It’s monotonous. I care about the kids and the family, however we are fighting a losing battle.
I felt like singing a few lines from the song by the band Queen:
“Another one’s gone, another one’s gone, another one bites the dust….”
The weekend newspaper in my city carried a story by a prominent sports doctor stating statistics show sports injuries are on the rise. He stated ‘We must do more’. More lip service, I thought. Like that’s going to happen. I can guarantee you – like taxes – sports injuries will continue to rise.
I had to say something. How do you break it to a mum that most of what her kids do in sport is doing more harm than good? So I said:
“I was just talking about this the other day with my coaches. We were saying how when we were kids, no one got injuries like the kids today. I played sport before school, at every school break, and after school. I didn’t get my firsts sports injury till my first year of high school, and that was a sprained ankle! I played a lot of sport, but admittedly it was play based, not like the formal training the kids do these days.”
Mum reflected on what I said. Then she asked:
“So why do you think this is?”
“Adult training is being taken down the age groups. Every year, more adult like training is being done at an earlier age. The adult training is usually flawed. People think professional athlete training is good, so they imitate it. It rarely is optimal. It’s training that used to be done only at adult ages, so the injuries were coming out at about the same time everyone expected the athlete to retire from old age anyway. But now with the same training being imitated at the younger age groups, the flaws in training are evident well before they get to retire, sometimes even before they get to start their adult career! Surgery for sports-related injury before the young athlete reaches twenty years of age is not uncommon.”
I could see the mother taking it in so I continued.
“Playing sport the way it is being done is not necessarily good for your son. Now, your son is in one of the worst sports – soccer. Two things cause this – soccer’s traditional distain for stretching, and the high impact, high volume multi-directional movements on a hard surface.”
“We are seeing that now!”
And we moved on with our day. Did I make a difference? I’m not sure. The forces of mainstream values in sport are big and strong – and off track, causing more harm than good.
If you have children - and if they are playing sport – have you thought about this? Are you wondering whether what they are doing is doing more harm long term than good? You should be.
* Not his real name