Sports Sparking Sudden Surrender in Young Athletes

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Vector Collection of Kids and Sport Illustration

Jules Gonzalez, Staff Writer

Now more than ever young athletes are beginning to quit their sport before they can even make it to the high school level. Though it’s common for some kids to be done with their sport before high school due to other interests, there’s a new reason that’s preventing the youth from wanting to continue their athletics. This underlying problem is the increase in intensity in sports all across the country. Sports are starting to become less of a hobby and more like a full time job. Kids should be able to play their sport for fun without feeling obligated to play in college or have several hour practices 5 nights a week.

One of the main reasons for the decrease in young athletes is not a choice, but is forced onto them because of injury. With the amount of time that kids are dedicating to their sport, they’re putting extreme amounts of stress on their bodies. According to Active Health KC, “Over the past 10-15 years, there has been a large increase in the occurrence of injuries to young athletes. Shoulder and elbow injuries are up 500% in baseball and softball players. While anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries have increased 400%”. These numbers are nothing to joke about. They are far above the 100% mark, which means that hundreds more athletes are more likely to have career-ending injuries. Many athletes are encouraged to continue pushing through the pain, or are afraid to tell coaches in fear of being punished. Senior Mckenna Curtin was a cross country runner for years, but quit after the injuries became too detrimental. “The training in cross country really took a toll on my body because I ran every single day and the training was super intense.” Curtin said, “It had a lot of mileage also and even when you were hurting, you had to push through and keep running.”

Another aspect to the intensifying of youth sports is the effect it has on the mental health of the athletes. With all of the time and effort that young athletes spend in one sport during all of the practices and games, it really adds up to affect the mental health of the kids. According to Post and Courier, “A new review study published in the Journal of Athletic Training suggests there are a number of effects this specialization has on mental, social and psychological well-being. Possible effects include increased anxiety and stress, social isolation, less family time, insufficient sleep  and burnout.” (Geier). Because of the massive amount of time commitment, athletes are being forced to spend more time at their sports and less time with family and friends, studying, or doing other things they enjoy. This causes them to develop problems with loneliness and in the future, have the possibility of anxiety and depression.

When speaking to adults in our parents’ generation, they often say they would have two sports practices a week, usually lasting an hour and a half or so. My parents tell me that they played their sports for fun and for something to stay in shape. Now, things are much different. Sports went from being a fun way to exercise and spend time with teammates, to being a full time commitment. It seems that the aspect of having a good time has whittled down to the sole purpose of winning. I had a conversation with WWS sophomore, Marco Gonzalez after he recently switched soccer clubs from a local club, to a club with a much bigger time commitment and intensity level. When asked about the change, Gonzalez said, “It took way more time and a much bigger toll on my body. My athleticism; like my speed and my jumping, diminished as a result of my intense and physically demanding schedule” (Gonzalez)

In refutation, several people believe that the increase in intensity of youth sports is a good thing. The first reason in believing so is that sports improve the social skills and teamwork in young athletes. According to Steamboat Emergency Center, “Children who get involved with sports and group activities can learn valuable social skills like cooperation, teamwork, self-confidence, and perseverance.” (Steamboat Emergency Center) This statement is true because kids will have more time to develop their social skills in a different setting than school. However, the intensity and time requirement for the sport does not have to be through the roof in order for kids to develop these skills. Another reason that people believe this is a good thing is because it gives kids a built in time to exercise. According to Dr. Cindy Gellner in an interview with University of Utah Health, “For starters, kids who participate in sports have stronger muscles and bones. It also helps keep their weight under control, which is important considering the child obesity problem we are seeing. Being active in sports will also help keep their heart healthy because it improves cardiovascular endurance” (Gellner) Children need to exercise in order to stay in shape and healthy. Having time blocked off to do so in sports is a perfect opportunity for kids to work it into their everyday lives without an extra struggle. Without playing sports, many kids probably would not be as active as they are when they’re involved in their own activities.

In conclusion, there are benefits to youth sports, but not at the expense of a social life, a healthy body, and a good mental state. There are ways that sports can be beneficial to kids without causing such damage to them at a young age. Once sports can go back to being controlled, they will have a very positive outcome on our young community.