“Too Much Sport for Teenagers” or “These Amazing Little Athletes”

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My 15-year-old daughter is a very serious athlete, she always has been. Now a sophomore in high school she has been playing Volleyball for the past 5 years. She is very very good! Her club team SMASH is the top team in New England, Nikita has always been on their top teams and made Varsity as a freshman, and actually played. This year as a sophomore she was a starter on her varsity team and while they lost in the second round in the tournament, they made the tournament and for them that was a great accomplishment. She loves it!

So Nikita plays a lot! During high school season they practice and or play 6 days a week. During her Club season, they practice yes, but the hardest are the tournaments. Even when she was 12 playing on a 14’s team, they would start their first game at around 8am and would play till 4-5pm. Now at 15 they still go to the tournaments, and most are overnight and they have two days of non stop competition. With about 5-6 hours of playing a day.

I have always been amazed at their drive, energy and enthusiasm. I have the most respect for athletes, but especially for high school athletes. Dealing with adolescence, hormones, fitting in, finding themselves among all the peer pressure, dating, parent/society pressure to live up to “the standards”, hours of homework every day, lack of sleep, overwhelming amounts of information they have to process every day. In Russia, been a teenager in the late 80th, I only had my books, my homework and 3 TV channels growing up; no phone (even the home phone we got only later), no computers, no Facebook, no texting, no Snapchat, no Instagram, the list can go on and on… And on top of it all, they have their sports! Practices, games, team dinners, team events, fundraisers, banquets, etc.

So much time, so much focus, physical stamina, strength (mental and physical), and discipline goes into being an accomplished high school athlete, as well as a successful and academically strong student. I love, respect and admire these guys and girls, for what they are able to accomplish in their high school years.

20131123_140159And God forbid you have an interest, a passion outside of all that. Something for your soul! Like in my daughter’s case – horses. She rides for joy! The horse stable is her church, horses are her shrink, her best friend/boyfriend who will never lie, betray her and who is always there for her. With horses there are no expectations, they are there for her, for her soul. No one expects her to jump higher, to collect and extend better, no one judges her canter, her flying lead changes – she is doing it all for herself and her horse. Taking lesson yes, she wants to be a better rider, but no one tells her that riding is her ticket to a D1 school, or to a great job – sure it all may happen, but she never HAS to do anything as far as horses are concerned and for NO ONE!

Watching young athletes, and raising my own, I am always wondering how do they do it? How do they find time? How do they manage it? Balancing their fragile selfs, between parents, siblings, friends, coaches, teammates, classmates, teachers – and the kids are the ones who are always at the receiving end!!!

Anyway. This was supposed to be a little blurb about too much exercise for kids and turned into an “Ode to the kid athlete” essay 🙂

So now about the research I wanted to talk about.

From the paper “Too Much Sport for Teenagers May Be as Bad as Too Little“​ by Laurie Barclay, MD November 20, 2013 for Medscape.com:

  • Peak scores of well-being for teenagers occurred with about 14 hours a week of sport practice, or twice the recommended 7 hours, but higher sport durations independently predicted poor well-being, according to a Swiss survey study published online November 21 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.
  • Very high sports practice, over 14 hours a week, predicts low well-being!
  • Those in the very high sports practice group (17.5+ hours a week) had more than twice the risk for poor well-being than those in the average group (around 7 hours a week), as did those in the low-activity group (0-3.5 hours a week). In contrast, those in the high activity group (around 14 hours) had about half the risk for poor well-being as those in the average group (around 7 hours). 
  • So too much physical activity may indeed be as bad as too little!

If you are interested to read the original whole paper I provided the link above.

To your health,

Elena

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Comments
  • Mary Strong-Spaid
    Reply

    Yes. Sometimes it is hard to find the right balance between not enough and too much.

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