Back in the days when I was training in gymnastics my training schedule went something like this:
Monday: 4 – 9, Tuesday 4 – 9, Wed 4 – 9, Friday 4 – 9, Saturday & Sundays 9am – until whenever we were finished.
We trained an average of 35 – 40 hrs a week. These days that is not the norm (well at least in gymnastics) and coaches are lucky if they can get their athletes in to train 20 – 25 hrs a week. When I was coaching I couldn’t understand why parents were so reluctant to allow their children to train so much. Of course there were some really over ambitious ones who were convinced their child was the next star – they would have them in the gym 24/7 had I wanted it, but now that I am a parent – I totally get it.
Being a competitive athlete in any sport has its positives and negatives. For myself there were issues with eating disorders and the feeling that I had to be perfect in every way. I had very little friends except those that were training with me because those on the outside just didn’t understand why I would want to train so much. At one point my grades fell behind because I was spending more time training than in school. For many competitive athletes life revolves around their sport and nothing else. They breathe, eat, and sleep their sport. The problem is, nobody prepares the competitive athlete for what the reality will be when they leave the safety of the gym, the pool, the ice rink etc.. When I left gymnastics I dealt with some serious depression issues because I had no clue what “real” life was about.
On the other hand there were many positives to being in a competitive sport. I developed excellent organizational skills, determination and incredible work ethic, learned how to deal with both wins and failures, and got to travel and meet new friends. While most of my classmates in High school worked at fast food places, I was coaching younger athletes and making twice the amount of money as they were.
A few weeks ago my own daughter joined a competitive Acrobatic Team and now trains 12 hours a week. Many parents I know gasped in shock when they heard this, claiming it is too many hours. Am I worried? No. If it were some other children of mine I might be.
Being in a competitive sport is not easy and is certainly not for every child. It is up to the parents to ensure that it is something that their child wants to do and not what the parent wants. Competitive sports have changed drastically since I was involved. For one, coaches must be NCCP certified (National Coaching Certificate program) in the sport they are coaching. There is more education for coaches on both the physical and psychological demands that are placed on a competitive athlete thus resulting in healthier athletes (less eating disorder, less depression and less injuries). Schools are much more accepting of their students who are involved in a competitive sport therefore allowing these children to keep up with their school work (often excelling) while still training in their respective sports.
What about you? Do you have a child involved in a competitive sport? How many hours a week do they train? How many hours do you think is too many? Would you allow your child to participate in a competitive sport?
Until next time