Pacer Notes: Does pressure take 'fun' out of youth sports?
Editor's Note: Please welcome Lakeridge High School senior Gus Hearn as a new Pacer Notes columnist for The Review.
"Just go out there and have fun" is a phrase heard often by every athlete at some point in their youth career. At a young age, this is very realistic advice.
With the combination of no pressure, halftime snacks and a post-season trophy for all participants, it's almost hard not to have fun during youth sports. However, as athletes get older, the pressure surrounding sports increases.
As sports become more intense, the carefree, all-for-fun attitude of athletes and parents changes into a much stricter, more competitive mindset. Halftime snacks and end-of-season trophies quickly shift into cutthroat tryouts and strenuous practices multiple times a week.
As a young athlete gets older, sports begin to take up much more time. During a season, a sport will typically consist of two or three practices a week and games on the weekend, making it impossible to play more than one sport per season.
Many sports also begin to offer year-round teams for young athletes, which can limit them from even playing more than one sport per year. This ultimately forces some individuals to choose one sport to focus on at a very young age.
I found myself in this position during seventh grade, when my club soccer coach forced me to pick between soccer and lacrosse. Although I ultimately chose lacrosse — and am very happy with that decision — I occasionally still miss playing soccer.
I also have many friends who
became "burned out" from their sport simply because they played it too much.
As a year-round high school lacrosse player, my schedule is constantly busy with lacrosse activities. This includes multiple tournaments in the fall, conditioning and practices a few times a week in the winter, a rigorous spring season and half of my summer spent on the East Coast for tournaments and camps.
Experiences are similar for serious athletes of all sports.
Although sports schedules can be very rigorous, many high school coaches encourage athletes to play other sports in the off season, because it can help athletes develop a wider range of skills. Playing another sport can also help prevent an athlete from getting burned out from their primary sport.
My advice to any young athletes is that it is great to focus on your favorite sport, but make sure it doesn't take up 100 percent of your attention. Playing a secondary sport — or having other interests — can help prevent getting burned out and allow for more fun again in sports.