Athlete Development or Abuse?

In the United States this is Labor Day weekend. Traditionally this is the kickoff for youth soccer season. I was reminded of this yesterday when I overheard two parents talking at Starbucks. They were talking about the tournament their kids were playing in. It was 2:00 PM and their kids had played two games already that day and were going to play the third game at 3:30. Yesterday it was 92 degrees with 73% humidity – heat index well over 100 degrees! Today they will come back and play again. They will play at least two more games and a third if they survive to play the championship game that will be played; you guessed it at 4:00 PM. This is not how you develop players. In this scenario skills quickly erode due to fatigue. As they fatigue they are more susceptible to injury. By the time they get to the second day of the tournament they look like they are playing in slow motion. The same thing happens in basketball, with heat being less of a factor. When are we going to wake up? This is borderline child abuse and highly negligent. The fact of the matter is nothing will be done. These tournaments are big money makers for the clubs that sponsor them and those who promote them. They epitomize the youth sport business that has grown up as sport has declined in the schools. I wish I could offer a viable solution, but realistically I am afraid there is none. The inertia of this economic engine would be tough to reverse. Ideally at the very least you should have a training to competition ratio of 5 or 6 to 1 with periods of no games. Despite all the hoopla of the new US Soccer development plan this is what still goes on. Players do not learn how to play the game the way it should be played. They learn how to survive. That is not athlete development.

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