Our athletes are becoming increasingly specialized. For a lot of us, soccer has taken on an year 'round schedule. There are many factors driving this, but experts suggest that overspecialization and/or the lack of an offseason come with some unintended consequences.
Sports like soccer are often adopted very early (3-6 years old) and are continued throughout childhood until about 12 years of age where we see a substantial drop in participation.
This drop is estimated to be around 75%.
√ Burnout - "It's not fun anymore"
√ Social Groups - No longer playing with friends
√ Injury - Overcoming injuries is really hard work, repeated concussions, acl tears etc.
√ Lack of Progress - No longer learning. Not making a team at tryouts.
First and foremost, most kids need a mental break from their main sport whether they admit it or not. Even if they're still enthusiastic, inject in some different sports and develop a better athletic profile. Also, the more they miss their sport, the more gusto they will have when the season starts again.
Strategy #1 - Variety
Most overuse injuries can be avoided by having children involved in differing activities. Think of swimming as a complement to running sports. If an athletic is dealing with heel pain or knee pain, basketball isn't likely to help them. A few ideas...
√ Spend some time playing other sports to work on different coordinative properties.
√ Swimming - Excellent way to take impact out of the equation, build strength and coordination.
√ Martial Arts - The right instructor can help develop patience, discipline and athleticism.
√ Strength or Speed Program - Great team building opportunity with massive benefits.
Strategy #2 - Unstructured Play
Unstructured play is another good strategy for offseason. Facilitating free play without coaching can allow players to rekindle their love of the sport. The key is, a space, a couple of goals and let them work out the teams. No referees, no coaching and mix the age groups. Let them enjoy the minutes without worry.
√ Tennis courts are a great place to facilitate pickup futsal for your team and community.
√ Gym space and a basketball can make for a fun, engaging competitive environment.
√ Touch football.
Educate your Parents
More and more parents are aware of the possible detriments of year around play and early specialization for sports, yet they still may feel pressure or have concern about their player taking a break from the competitive environment.