Do you think kids specialize in sports too early and play too much?
At least in basketball, the NBA and USA Basketball agree with you. The two have partnered to create a series of guidelines for parents to follow, which largely call for kids to play fewer games, get more rest and trigger less one-sport specialization.
The goal, the organizations say, is to promote “a positive and healthy youth basketball experience.”
The two bodies believe that the game of basketball can help foster peer relationships, self-esteem and better health, but is also noticing an overemphasis on early competitive success, a pressure to begin high-intensity training at a young age, injury and risk of burnout.
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Last spring, the NBA and USA Basketball began work on these guidelines with three groups of experts focused on health and wellness, playing standards and curriculum and instruction. The groups included coaches, former players and medical experts.
Two large local youth basketball organizations contacted by the Observer welcomed the changes those groups ultimately recommended.
Ed Addie, president of the adidas-based Team Loaded 704 said that many teams are playing far too much and that comes with potential problems.
“That definitely should be cut back some,” said Addie, who is also an assistant coach at Gaston Day School in Gastonia. “I don’t know the exact formula as to how many games should be played, but I think kids are playing way too many games. I think it burns them out, and I’m not a medical expert, but I would expect it also leads to what’s been happening with the rash of ACL (knee) injuries.
“Because I coach school ball, I see the difference in players and how much more they learn with more practice time. So I definitely think AAU players should have more practice time -- instead of two times per week, maybe three of four. And you should cut off tournament games to a max of two per day. I don’t like it when they play three. By the third game, the kids are done.”
Ced Canty, co-director of the Nike-based Team United organization, said he agrees with Addie in that today’s players are suffering injuries at a much higher rate than before, and these guidelines could be a first step to helping slow that trend down.
“I definitely understand where both of those organizations are coming from,” Canty said, “making those guidelines in the interest of young athletes and their physical health. It’ll be hard to implement those guidelines across the board, but I have seen the wear and tear on kids playing these long tournaments. The injuries are just more prevalent than they have been before.”
The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) is also supporting the new guidelines, which stress to parents to not allow kids to specialize in a sport until after they are 14 years old.
“Supporting these first-ever guidelines set forth by the NBA and USA Basketball is a no-brainer for the AAU,” said AAU president and CEO Dr. Roger Goudy. “Basketball is the largest sport in (AAU), so we want more for our youth athletes and we have a responsibility to make sure our participants are experiencing the game in an enjoyable, inclusive and healthy manner.”
NBA/USA Basketball Youth Participation Guidelines
RECOMMENDED PARTICIPATION GUIDELINES
# of Games Per Week
# of Practices Per Week
1 to 2
2 to 4
2 to 3
3 to 4
MAXIMUM PARTICIPATION GUIDELINES
# of Games Per Day
# of Hrs. Per Week in Organized Basketball
The maximum participation guidelines outlined above and guidance on camps and academies below are intended to serve as limits on a young athlete’s participation in organized basketball. It is possible that participation in organized basketball within the maximum limits but in excess of the recommendations is also not advisable from a health and wellness standpoint; however, this issue requires further study.
*Youth basketball players, parents, and coaches should demonstrate caution in scheduling or participating in more than one game per day, especially on consecutive days. If young athletes participate in an event or tournament in which more than one game is played per day on consecutive days, players should have additional time off from sports activities following the event to allow for recovery.
**It is recommended that young athletes in these age ranges who are approaching the maximum hour limits not participate in another organized sport concurrently.
Min. # of Rest Days Per Week
Max. Months Per Year in Organized Basketball
Recommended Hours of Sleep Per Night
*For 12 year olds, 9-12 hours of sleep is recommended.