IN YOUTH SPORTS BY UNDERSTANDING SPORTS SKILL DEVELOPMENT
If winning isn't everything, why do they keep score?
You are listening to ReachMD XM 157, the channel for
medical professionals. Welcome to a special segment on sports medicine. I am
Dr. Bill Rutenberg, your host and with me today is Dr. Paul Stricker.
Dr. Stricker practices sports medicine at the Scripts
Clinic in San Diego, California. He is the past president of the American
Medical Society for Sports Medicine and is a member of the American Academy of
Pediatrics Council and Sports Medicine and Fitness. Dr. Stricker was an all
American swimmer in college and served as a team physician for the United
States Olympic team at the Sydney Olympics. He is the author of the book
"Sports Success Rx! Your Child's Prescription for the Best
Today, we are discussing reducing pressure in youth
sports by understanding sports skill development.
Hi Dr. Stricker. Thanks for joining us on this special
segment on sports medicine.
Thanks for having me on the show.
So tell me, how did sports get so out of hand?
Oh! I think it is a combination of many years of a change
in society plus media plus hype and reality TV where, you know, everybody
thinks to have one shot and that is it and so we are kind of distorted what used
to be a wonderful definition of success, which was more personal achievement
and personal accomplishment and now success really in only the gold medal or
first place, which obviously will severely limit most people into very small
percentage or category. So what I always challenge people is just how do you
define success because too often how we define success may be how we end up
defining our children.
And how would you define success, isn't it like Vince
Lombardi said, winning is everything?
I think winning is important. We all need to feel that
sense of, you know, self achievement, but there is so many ways that you can
achieve and accomplish and if you improve on yourself that always a personal
winning, but winning is not always a personal success and think we need to
remember that. You can have kids who clearly get first place without much
effort and then there are kids, who do the best they have ever done in their
entire life and still come in 6th place, that is the kid, who still has won and
so I think we have to remember winning is a very personal thing and how you
Which is your decisive moment, was there something that just
really made you nuts that you are still going on youth sports that prompted you
to write this book?
Yeah, I think it was, it was more of an accumulation of
things, but it was one of those things where I finally got to the boiling point
and would literally lay awake at night going, why do people keep talking about
unrealistic expectations and all the pressure on these kids, but nobody is
really understanding where it's coming from besides just may be, you know,
parents wanting to finish their unfinished business and I started to realize
that so many of these kids are pushed and pressured because people think that
after potty training, they can just do something if you practice it hard enough
and long enough and people know when their kids can sit up and rollover, but
they think after that you just practice, practice, practice. So, they are
being pushed and I realized that if they don't understand that some of these
things are still developing years after that, that they understood that better,
may be they would relieve some of the pressure off these kids and themselves.
You mean there are some developmental milestones when it
comes to sports readiness.
Yeah, there actually is.
Could you go through some of those?
Sure, I would love to. We always kind of try to do it by
general age clusters, so to speak because of course, we all know that there is
group of kids that fall within the average range and then there are outliers,
who are truly extraordinary and I think what is important is that parents
cannot try to make every child like that extraordinary child because that is
the one that is just going to be kind of off the scale and if you try too early
to put them in that category, it may be a real mistake we try to over push
them, so in general the way we try to approach this in that early 2 to
5-year-old group, they really just still learning how to standup without
falling down and they don't have a lot of visual maturity and so things like
T-Ball are really great because they don't have to move a lot and they can
focus on a stationary object. A lot of our mature running scales reach adult
levels more by about age 7, where they don't have to think about so much about
standing upright and then our mental development, for instance, for complex
decision sports really improves after about age 10 and then our aerobic
development really takes off after puberty, so we need to think about that
there are tracks of developing physically, emotionally, chemically, etc. and
those are all things that happen on a sequential basis over time and they can't
really be pushed too quickly.
On my way home from work, I am a pediatrician, I passed the
athletic field in my local community and the coaches are out there and they are
blowing their whistles and the kids are in their uniforms and everybody is
dressed to the hilt, but what kind of parent do or they test of readiness that
either the athletic coaches should be administrating or parents may be should
be administrating, just like to have some realistic expectations of what their
child can actually do?
It is an excellent question and I think you know a lot of
Eastern European countries have been trying to do that for years and where they
will, you know, select out children at shows, certain amounts of promise and
talent at early ages and then try to refine that. In the United States, I
think part of our way to help is to kind of allow your kids to be exposed to
multiple different activities, one just so that they can be well rounded and
not super specialized too early, but also so that they can really kind of
gravitate towards something that they do find comes relatively easy and most
importantly that they enjoy and have fun with, so rather than trying to find
the test that, you know, every kid can do and every parent can do to try to
find that little needle in the haystack is exposing to lot of activities, let
them gravitate towards what they are doing well with and feel that personal
self accomplishment with.
I would like to welcome those who are just joining us on
this special segment on sports medicine on ReachMD XM 157, the channel for
medical professionals. I am Dr. Bill Rutenberg, your host and with me today is
Dr. Paul Stricker, past president of the American Medical Society for Sports
Medicine. We are discussing Dr. Stricker's book, "Sports Success Rx! Your
Child's Prescription For The Best Experience."
I was only thinking more in terms of, you know, so a parent
does not have an unrealistic expectation or your kid gets up and he strikes out
every time, but you know, may be his visual motor integration hasn't developed
yet, there is someway that a parent can say, you know, he is ready for this
level or say to a coach, you know, you are pushing my child too hard. He has
just not reached this point. I remember my kid couldn't build legos until
about 6 months after his friends and all of a sudden, he knew how to put them
together and it was just developmental.
Right, absolutely, and some of that I think will come as
more and more people truly understand this kind of sequential development and
so when you look at visual development, for instance, if you are trying to work
on hitting moving balls or catching moving balls or kicking or whatever, those
are things that occur really within its own kind of round visually, then so,
you know, 5-year-old, they can focus on that stationary ball, but there and as
they move forward, when they are kind of in at 7 or so age range, they do
better about moving objects if they are coming right towards them or if they
are going right towards it versus may be 8 and a half, 9 years old, when they
really mature that ability to finally track a moving object and need it at a
different point and so, in that general scheme of thing, that is kind of how
kids are going to fall. Now, you are going to have kids obviously who are
before that and after that, but in general if you are a 5-year-old and they are
trying to have them catch fly balls out in the field and they are missing every
time, it is truly not that the kid is a total <_____> or that he will
never be able to catch a ball, but is just the developmentally that is not the
time period for that skill. Now, will that kid then once he reaches that be
able to catch every ball perfectly, may be or may be not, that is just again
part of your genetics.
Now, again say that child, should a coach find another
position for him, I mean a great story when my daughter was playing softball
and she was about 10 years old and a girl dropped the fly ball in the outfield
and the coach started screaming and a friend of mine, who coached kids for
years came out of the stand, put his arm around the coach and said, tell me
coach do you think she really tried to drop the ball. Again, some of these
coaches who forget that they are 8 or 10 or 12 years old, what approach would
you recommend a parent take to the coach, who seems to be getting down on their
kid and spoiling that child's fun?
Well, it's always a tough thing because a lot of them they
have their own particular reason why they are pressured themselves, sometimes
they are under the gun, you know, to make sure that their team is winning or
they have gotten pressure from other parents to make sure that every kid is
playing or that they played their kid all the time, there are some of the
problems that are not necessarily from the coach themselves, but usually am I
have to go off to the coaches who really focus their efforts on how can I best
improve this child life and performance regardless of the outcome because that is
what the best we can help the parents realize that hey, if it is really not
always about whether you are coming first place or not and I think what happens
to this if we do that too much and these people really put a lot of pressure of
these kids is that the kids start to identify there self worth with how they
have performed instead of on just who they are and now becomes a very, very
dangerous issue as they grow up because they should never have self worth
threatened by the outcome of an event, so we really want to encourage both the
parents and the coaches from both sides to say hey, we are all about our kids
doing the best effort and knowing that sure sometimes they are going to win,
sometimes they are going to lose, but that teaches them values that they can
carry over into their long-term life.
So, I guess if I would a coach, advice you might give me is
at the end of each game, to tell each kid what you did better this time to find
something that child improved upon?
No, I agree what I understand, you did definitely struck a
cord with me and that I have seen instances that I got worked in camps like
that where, you know, you are not allowed to say anything negative and after a
while, it really becomes easier and easier, were so used to kind of picking at
things, instead of really looking at what did I personally do better or what
that person do better and it really changes your outlook on a lot of different
things, so I agree that there are wonderful tactic to be able to use.
In your book, you make a point that children shouldn't focus
on a single sport, but if a kid has a real aptitude, I mean if it is something
just does really well, do you still feel they should try a bunch of different
That comment is again for the general population of
children. Overall, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not support super
early specialization for multiple reasons, you know, socialization, overuse
injuries, and a lot of pressure and burnout, all that stuff. There are
absolutely kids who excel early on. They just absolutely fall in love with
their activity and that sport and they enjoy it. They are completely joyful to
have a great time they can't wait to go back to their activity. In those
particular cases, it is perfectly fine for that child to be focussed on that
one activity. What happens is we then want the adult counterpart to then say
judge them based on adult data then we need to push them more because they are
already eager to do what is required of them and if you kind of turn it around
and then say, well no need to push them more because they are already good at
the sport, they may still risk making it an unpleasant situation where they
don't look forward to it.
You are an all American swimmer. I got to ask you, would
you have reached that pinnacle if you would have followed your own advice, as
written in the book?
I was kind of fortunate and that I was lucky. I tried all
the other sports and I was really pathetic at anything that had moving objects,
tennis, basketball, or football, or baseball, etc. plus I was really, really
small, I was very underdeveloped, so for me swimming really did come pretty
naturally and so I got a late start though, I didn't really start swimming
until I was 10, which, you know, by today's standards is about 5 or 6 years too
late, so I think today's world, yes, I probably would have been self selected
out because I was a late bloomer, but fortunately I did have a coach, who
excelled good at rights and I had parents who were very supportive and just
wanted me to enjoy myself and do the best I could and then I became one of
those kids like you were talking about where I really couldn't get enough of
swimming, I tried everything else, couldn't do it, this was great, I felt self
accomplishment and so I think I went beyond kind of what I was even potential
for that sport, because I loved it so much and I had a lot of really positive
I would like to thank Dr. Paul Stricker, who has been my
guest. We have been discussing Dr. Stricker's book, "Sports Success Rx!
Your Child's Prescription for the Best Experience," how to maximize
potential and minimize pressure. You have been listening to a special segment
on sports medicine on ReachMD XM 157, the channel for medical professionals. I
am Dr. Bill Rutenberg and I leave you with the sports tip from Yogi Berra. You
can't think and hit at the same time. I invite you to listen to our on-demand
library by visiting us at reachmd.com, register with promo code radio and
receive 6 months of free streaming audio. If you have comments or suggestions,
call us at 888 MD XM 157. Thanks for listening. Until next time, I wish you
good day and good health.
This is Dr. Anthony Yarn from New York you are listening
to the first national radio channel create specifically for the medical
professionals ReachMD XM 157