Be a Good Sport

My column this week is on how not to turn into a crazy sport parent.

I’m a sports fan  — I’ve played, coached and written about them as a reporter — but I think about minor sport a little differently now that I have kids. I’ve also done some research and writing in this area as a freelancer for Sport Nova Scotia.

Interestingly, even the experts are saying that perhaps we should be a little more relaxed about youth sport. Canadian Sport for Life has a model called Long-Term Athlete Development, and it stresses that kids shouldn’t be overdoing it on one sport or focusing too much on results too early.

The fact is, if your prepubescent son is playing hockey 11 months of the year, it’s probably not going to turn him into Sidney Crosby. It might even hurt his development in the long run: there’s a greater chance he could get burned out or injured, and he’s limiting his overall athletic development by focusing on one set of skills.

Of course, there’s a business behind all this. It’s an angle I didn’t have room to explore in my column, but there are sport camps and sport schools and specialty stores and training options galore these days. They’re not bad in and of themselves, but they can increase the pressure on parents to keep up. They can perpetuate the myth that if a budding young hockey superstar isn’t spending his July in power-skating camp, he’s falling behind “the competition.”

The truth is kids don’t need that stuff. Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky both spent summers playing baseball. Tim Duncan–my favourite NBA player and the greatest power forward of all time–was a competitive swimmer in college. There’s a time and place for kids who might be “special” to focus on one sport, but that time is rarely when they’re eight or 10 or 12.  At that age we have no idea what they might become.



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