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Finding the Balance in Youth Sports

A few weeks ago, I was asked to facilitate a discussion for Dover-Sherborn parents on striking a healthy balance for youth sport athletes. Our panel included a Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon from Boston Children's Hospital who discussed the issue of overuse injuries in young athletes, the President of the Dover-Sherborn Soccer Club, a member of the Dover-Sherborn Athletic Advisory Committee, and a student athlete in the Dover-Sherborn school system.

A few important points for balancing the demands of student-athletes included the following:

1. Understanding the reason why kids participate (to have fun)

2. Understanding why they dropout (excessive pressure, disliking coach, emphasis on winning)

3. An effective youth sport climate should include skill development, emphasis on social affiliation, fun/active practices, enhancing competence and motivation

4. Parental involvement should tail off after the age of 10-12 years old as coach and peer feedback is more important at that time in their life

5. The professionalization of youth sports - starting kids at an early age and specializing in one sport does not have any significant advantage in terms of becoming an elite/professional athlete. It can actually lead to overuse injuries and burnout from sport

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