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Are we running too much in sports?

Are We Running Too Much in Sports?

In sports, time management is a relevant factor in many instances, especially in the various stages of an athlete's development. This formative process is a complex and controversial task at times.

These times are based on clichés, beliefs, and perhaps, a mismanagement of expectations by athletes and their environments.

In this regard, the first dilemma arises when we analyse the age at which individuals start practicing a particular sport. There is a disparity of opinions on the ideal time to start a specific sport. There is a belief that the earlier one starts, the better. However, it is crucial to consider that children should engage in sports that suit their abilities and what they are capable of, without imposing overly high demands on them.

This initiation into sports can be single-sport or multi-sport. Some also believe that the earlier children specialize in the sport they desire (or adults desire for them...), the sooner they will learn, master it, and achieve victories and success ahead of competitors. In this context, we should bear in mind and apply the analogy of "first learn to walk and then to run."

The concept of sports orientation is often overlooked, intending to propose the most suitable modality based on the child's characteristics and profile and guide them towards disciplines where they fit better.

In the early stages of sports engagement, it is often combined with other activities outside school hours. This can lead to what is known as extracurricular hyperactivity, considering the high volume of activities children participate in, including sports, cultural, musical, language-related, etc.

This time management is also confused with many contradictions, such as the quantity versus the quality of stimuli given to athletes. It is not a problem of too much sports activity or too much practice time; it is about the quality of what the child learns and how they do it, reflect on it, and internalize it throughout their sports education.

Another contradiction in this process lies in dirigisme versus autonomy. We should let athletes learn autonomously and be aware of what they are doing and how they are improving. Reproductivity versus spontaneity is also a challenge; children should be allowed to experiment rather than be led to repeat the same actions without thinking about what they are doing.

These dilemmas often generate impatience among the stakeholders involved in the training process, such as athletes, parents, coaches, etc. This impatience prevents them from enjoying the surrounding sports practice.

Ángel Gabilondo, when he was the rector of the Autonomous University of Madrid, wrote an article published in the newspaper La Vanguardia on October 6, 2008, titled "Time to Teach and Study." He advocates for promoting a culture of effort at the school level, reflecting on how students learn and emphasizing the need to strive and fight for individual goals and objectives, being aware of one's own progress. This reflection is equally valid and powerful for sports.

Building on Gabilondo's reflection, in the sports field, practitioners, even from a young age, must familiarize themselves with and internalize different types of knowledge: theoretical knowledge, such as what is learned conceptually, knowledge of being and being related to attitudes and respect, and the transmission of values fostered and facilitated by sports. Additionally, there is knowledge of doing, which involves learning, mastering, and implementing the skills and abilities specific to the practiced sport.

The combination of these knowledge types in each situation that occurs in training and competitions, many of which are new, different, and enriching, should help in the development of the athlete-person. This goal is not achieved over a weekend, as can be understood, but requires much time and patience.

Parents and guardians should be facilitators of this process and, at the very least, not hinder it. The presence of parents at training sessions, giving instructions to their children, teammates, or opponents, questioning the coach, etc., does not help facilitate the process and increases the anxiety of athletes.

Parents and guardians undoubtedly want the best for their children, but sometimes, due to ignorance or poor management of children's expectations and achievements, they are not aware of it. With the excuse of "I get very nervous" or "I want to help," they try to direct what they believe their child should do in training or a match. Expressions like "keep going...," "shoot...," "position yourself well...," and all these instructions related to the know-how we discussed earlier often do not reach the athletes' ears. If they do, they may not affect them or may lead to effects such as disorientation, loss of credibility of the coach, and conflicts among teammates.

It is interesting and revealing to observe in parents the position, postural and personal attitude, criticism of the coach, referee or judge, and comments among parents and companions reflecting this impatience, direction, and overprotection towards athletes. This does not help in the process.

It is good to reflect on sports dropout at an early age due to various factors such as the lack of training and experience of sports coaches and the pressure and demands from athletes' environments.

Emphasizing learning, training, and competing while enjoying sports from the early stages is crucial. Surely, in this way, the process will flow more smoothly, and athletes will experience it more intensely and for much longer.

Josep Campos Rius

Professor at Vibliotec

His course: https://vibliotec.org/cursos/a...