How Much is Too Much – The Series
How much is too much? It is a question that nags at me constantly. After all, we are talking about children here. Ages 3 to 18, Tiny to Senior – they are all participating in a sport that they enjoy. They are competing in cheerleading. They practice. They do privates, camps, clinics and everything in between. They are in the gym anywhere from 3 to 6 days a week, 1 to 4 hours per day. When do we as parents step in? When do we say “This is too much.”?
I know I am not the only parent that thinks about this. I was on a chat page, and another mother posed a question to the group: “How much is too much?! Would you ever invest in 4-5 privates a week for a young athlete (a child 5-8 years old)? What are your thoughts on allowing your child to spend 5+ hours in the gym on a school night?! I personally believe this is when the PARENT wants “it” more than the child. I understand that as parents we want the best for our children and we want to give them all the tools needed in order to be successful. However, when do you draw the line?”
I loved this post because it really got me thinking, and it made me look at things from many different angles. You could look at this series of questions from a physical angle (how does all of this work on their little joints and bones?); from the mental angle (how does this affect their views of the world and work ethic; how does this affect how they relate to others?); and from the self-esteem angle (how does this affect how they feel about themselves?). Because there is so many different ways to look at this, I decided that I should take the time to look at the question from all of the angles: the physical, the mental and the self-esteem.
Even though this is a sport, and most of the gyms that house these teams are businesses (some even the only livelihood of the owners and coaches alike), we are still dealing with kids. What are we teaching them? What does this say to them both consciously and sub consciously? There are so many kids that seem to thrive on the sport and the feedback of their peers, coaches and parents; there are still others that don’t seem to care. Some athletes push themselves to the point of mental breakdown, and still there are others that will do “just enough”. Why is this? Why does this happen? Do parents have a part in this? Is it in their DNA makeup? Do they do this as a compensation for something they don’t get elsewhere? I have so many questions relating to this that I don’t think I could cover it in one blog without writing a complete novel.
The research is astounding on some aspects, but not others. Many have covered the mental angle and the self-esteem, but there is very little to discuss about the physical effects that this much work has on our children so young. And while some of the coaches out there have taken the training and courses to know how to properly train, other coaches and owners have done nothing other than formerly compete themselves as a cheer athlete. Does just being a former athlete qualify you to properly instruct children? My personal viewpoint is no. There are many that are out there that have done what they needed to so they can be a proper coach; still others simply instruct our athletes to the point of “just being able to throw it” and then move onto the next skill. Many times this goes to the point of not only physically endangering our athletes, but wasting our money. I personally witnessed an athlete that had been at a gym and was taught up to a standing back tuck. She went to another gym and a guest coach had come in for running tumbling clinics and not only did he see it, but so did the head coach for the athlete’s new gym that she had not been taught correctly. Because of this, they had to take her back to level 2 skills so that she could be “re-taught” the proper skills so she could progress. If they hadn't done that, she would have been stuck at a standing tuck, never to progress further because physically she couldn't because of the technique she had been taught. If I had been her parent I would have been furious! All that money wasted because there was a coach out there (too many of them in my honest opinion) that only instruct so they can “throw it”; not properly, just “throw it”.
Let’s face it – this is big business. There is a lot of money shelled out for kids to participate in this sport of all-star cheerleading. Uniforms, shoes, practice wear, private instruction, camps, travel, hotel, airfare, food, competition fees, gym tuition. . . You get the picture. Now to bring this into perspective, we are spending all of this money on 5-8 year olds! Not just 15 year olds; not just 17 year olds. . . But 5-8 year old children. Do we really want to destroy them before they have even hit their teens?
There is so much here that we have to truly examine. Because of this, I am going to break it down into specific topics so that we can truly see what the studies and experts have to say. I will find out what researchers, doctors, therapists, coaches, instructors, teachers and other parents have to say on the different angles of this question – How much is too much? Join me in my search for the answers!