Sports and kids – how much is too much?

This post is part of a series that focuses on children’s and women’s health, as part of a sponsored partnership with Aurora Health Care.We hear a lot about the importance of keeping our kids active and healthy.

But is there such a thing as too much organized sport activity?

According to Aurora pediatrician Dr. Diane Gerlach, the answer is: absolutely.

While we all might like to think that our child is the next Ryan Braun or Serena Williams, the real goal of sports is to become a life-long source of enjoyment and fitness. Playing sports is the perfect way for kids to make friends, stay out of trouble, and build confidence.

But some kids can become unnecessarily stressed and frustrated if parents fail to manage the pace and intensity of their involvement in sports.

If you start to notice declining performance or motivation, chronic pain or fatigue, or difficulty getting along with teammates, it might be a signal that you need to reconsider your approach to sports and organized activity.

While there are no hard and fast rules, here are some general guidelines that Dr. Gerlach recommends:

  • Limit practice or play time to no more than 18-20 hours a week, and never more than five days a week.
  • Ensure at least one day a week off with no organized physical activity.
  • Ensure two to three months off from sports during the year.
  • Avoid specializing in a sport until middle school.
  • Limit pitchers or quarterbacks to 300 throws per week, including practice.
  • Keep your focus on character-building traits (good sportsmanship, positivity, personal growth, etc.) and health benefits like strength and agility
  • Focus on technique more than power or speed
  • If your child is injured, be sure they rest and heal even if they resist slowing down.

If you’d like to know more about Dr. Gerlach’s recommendations, click here.

On a personal note, my six-year-old is currently involved in both t-ball and “parent pitch” through our local recreation department. That means organized sports three times per week.

This amount feels to me somewhere between “just right” and “a little too much.” I really value our downtime as a family, so more than this amount would start to be too much for our family at this age.

What sports do your kids play and how often? What do you think about these guidelines? Comment below!

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