Parents and kids work together to avoid sports burnout

by Sheila Gray - email|bio

Millions of kids play sports but the fact is a very small number of them get scholarships for college and their bodies and minds may be taking a beating.

Kristen Pace played high school sports. "I really didn't have a break, I think a week, and I was in basketball tryouts right after volleyball. Playing all year? Basically, and if I wasn't playing for school I was playing on a select team.

Kristen started playing basketball in middle school. By high school, she was a two-sport girl, splitting her time - and it was almost all of her time - between basketball and volleyball.

"It's very exciting," says Kristen.  "I got a thrill out of it. I'd rush home from work, get on my gear and head out door. Jim would come later and we'd cheer 'em on."

"We'd go to Louisville, Williamstown, wherever it was."

Then in her sophomore year, Kristen tore her ACL.

She battled back, But it was hard.  But then, before her senior year, Kristen walked away from one of her sports.

"I would come home and if I had a day off in the week. I'd just want to sit in my house and not do anything. That's when I knew i was burnt out."

What Kristen was feeling is becoming more and more common in young athletes. Kids are getting involved in organized sports much younger these days.  Some when they're 5 or 6 years old.

Many parents hope give their kids every advantage, but there can some negative consequences.

Dr. Matthew Busam says "We see more injuries than we used to with young athletes, injuries that shouldn't happen and they're just happening because of overuse. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics says half of all sports injuries in children are related to overuse."

Kids make up half of doctor Matthew Busam's sports medicine practice. On top of injuries, he's seeing more cases of burnout in young players. A lot of it has to do with fact that kids have increased pressure to perform as children.

It used to be unusual for a 6 year old kid to play four different sports and play all year around. It's common now.

"Typically," says Dr. Barbara Walker, "it comes from staleness or overtraining. But it could be from over travel a lot of stress, lack of sleep, just feeling pressured, maybe not enjoying the sport."

The National Alliance for Youth Sports says 73 percent of kids drop organized sports by age 13.

The reason? the pressure. Dr. Barbara walker says that pressure can show up as physical and emotional symptoms.

"Maybe all if their parents friends are with that sport, or assume kid will get college scholarship, and put their life, energy, time and money in this child's sport, and now the child doesn't want to do this anymore, so it's really a tough conversation."

In reality, only five percent of kids who make it onto varsity teams get college scholarships. Even fewer become pros.  But more kids are playing one sport., year round.  Doctors, even coaches, say they need to take time off.

Dr. Walker says often that's all it takes to get over burnout.

"The important thing is to listen to your child. I think they need to back off and let child make their own decision but sometimes I hear kids say I wish my parents would've pushed me a little more, but you have to find that optimal balance."

And Dr. Busam says it's important to remember the reason why kids play.

"Kids play sports for very different reasons than adults. Adults play sports to win. Kids play sports to have fun and be with their friends."

Kim Pace recognized that in Kristin, "It was just too much, and she missed out things with friends, prom, football games, and sometimes she didn't get to go."

And she let Kristin make the decision to put up her volleyball pads.

"I reallly want to focus on something I'll be when I'm older and I'm not going to be a pro basketball or volleyball player. I want to do something bigger with my life that I'm actually good at."

"I was okay," said her mom. "I support her 100 percent."

Parents should help kids balance sports with other activities and make sure they have time off to relax. Also, they should recognize when they're pushing too hard.  Give their kids support and downplay the importance of the outcome.  Involve young players in decision making.

And some parents may even have to lessen their involvement in their children's activities.

Copyright 2010 by FOX19.  All Rights Reserved.