High school sports are a tremendous transition period for many developing athletes. Many young athletes are beginning to come into their own, having surpasses major growth spurts and potentially developing skillsets that are specific to certain sports. With a wide range of athletes, from purely beginner/recreational, to Olympians, it’s important to consider some newfound perspectives on high school sports, especially if sports may become more serious after high school.
With sports becoming more and more lucrative and popular, especially in North America, it’s now becoming increasingly common to see high school athletes burn out before they have a chance to make it to the big leagues. In the US, this is more so seen in the “major” sports like basketball and football, and in Canada this is much more pronounced in hockey than other sports.
One thing to keep in mind is that these high school athletes have their entire lives ahead of them, and their skillsets don’t need to hit their peaks before they leave high school. While the motto “practice makes perfect” may hold true, overworking a young athlete to the point where they are routinely exhausted and not able to provide complete focus on their sport or school can be very detrimental.
We see this a lot with Canada’s hockey system, especially leagues like the OHL. A lot of these players are still in high school, and are impressive individuals for being able to balance school work, additional tutoring, and life on the road. These teams will spend tons of time on the road bussing from town to town for games, all on top of the training, practice, game time, and recovery time required for their sport. In this manner, much of the focus on development is spent on individual success, rather than team success, and this lends itself to burning out the young athlete before they even have a chance to get a name for themselves. On the other hand, the US developmental programs have now reduced the number of games played in a season, allowing for a greater focus to be placed on skill development, positional and teamwork, and overall life skills. This program has seen tremendous success as of late and has garnered the attention of some of the top Canadian coaches and trainers.
In the US, two-a-days and being pressured by a community to perform well has become the culture in many sports, especially football. While many young athletes find this to be manageable, it definitely increases the risk of injury, particularly concussions and joint injuries. The main problem here is that if this program was to be scaled back to focus more on skill and technique development, the speed of the game when transitioning to college may be too large to overcome. So, if there is anything to take away from this brief point, it’s that young athletes in the US should be monitored more carefully for signs of concussion or overuse injury. They have lots of time ahead of them, so not being able to suit up in one high school game to avoid aggravating an injury shouldn’t be considered a problem, but too often it is.
This article was simply meant to serve as a thought-provoking discussion on some of the issues surrounding our high school athletes. This is a time in their lives that could be considered a turning point, one that we can support and encourage, or one that we can max out for the short term with long term negative results. As long as the athletes, parents, coaches, and trainers are aware of these developing issues, then we should be able to track some rising stars of the future!