How much time should be devoted every week to practicing sports

John O'Sullivan, Founder of Changing The Game Project, shares advice on how much time should be devoted to your child's sport.
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How much time should be devoted every week to practicing sports

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It can be very tempting as a parent that you see some potential in your son or daughter to say, “Oh, well, I know as an adult that if I’m good at something, I just need to practice more and more and more.” But we have to realize that it’s not just practice that feeds into whether someone’s going to be good in the long term. There’s the psychological part. There’s the motivation part. So, what physician advices is that a child, certainly an elementary school child, should never be practicing more hours a week and organize practice than their chronological age. So, if they’re 8, they shouldn’t have more than eight hours of organized practice in a sport. By the same token, they can play a lot of hours in that sport. So, they might have eight hours of hockey practice, but if they want to go to the pond and play eight hours in Saturday and eight hours on Sunday with their friends, that’s a great thing because that’s not the same as practice. It’s intrinsically motivating. It puts them in the state of flow. It increases enjoyment and makes it better. So, it’s not just about how many hours your kids practice because you can have them practice and practice and practice. We’ve seen stories of Chinese fathers taking their 8-year-old daughter and running marathons with her. She’s going to get hurt. She’s going to break bones. She’s going to get stress fractures. The growing body cannot absorb the same amount of physical activity as an adult body can. Especially as kids enter their growth spurt, what happens is actually the joints misaligned a little bit. So, they’re more susceptible to injury when they’re having an extreme growth spurt. In those times when they’re growing, we actually have to be even more careful with them and maybe limit their hours, so when they come to you and their knee hurts or their ankle hurts, don’t just ignore it, be very careful about it because that could be the sign that something far worse could be happening soon.

John O'Sullivan, Founder of Changing The Game Project, shares advice on how much time should be devoted to your child's sport.

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John O'Sullivan

Founder of Changing The Game Project

John O’Sullivan founded the Changing the Game Project in 2012 in order to help parents, coaches and youth sports organizations create a more child-centered sports experience for our young athletes. John is a former collegiate and professional player, and worked for 20 years on the youth, high school and college level as a coach and club Technical Director. He holds a USSF A License, NSCAA Advanced National Diploma, and a US Youth Soccer National License. His blog is now one of the most popular youth sports websites in the US, and he has been a featured presenter at TEDx Bend Oregon, IMG Academy, and this week at the NSCAA Convention. The Changing the Game Project provides live and online parent and coaching education workshops, webinars, and consulting services.

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