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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Baseball Shouldn't Be A Year-Round Sport

I've written numerous times about the dangers of kids playing a single sport year round:
  1. Young Athletes, Overuse, and Torn ACLs
  2. Want to Double Your Kids' Chance of Injury? Have Them Specialize in a Single Sport
  3. Overuse, Not Curveballs, Hurts Young Arms
  4. Kids and Sports: How Young is too Young? How Much is too Much?
  5. Aristotle, Virtue & the Youth Sports-Injury Epidemic
But don't take my word for it (or from the studies I cite). Take it from former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz, who this last weekend at his induction ceremony into the Baseball Hall of Fame, had this to say about the topic:
I want to encourage the families and parents that are out there to understand that this is not normal to have a surgery at 14 and 15 years old. That you have time, that baseball is not a year-round sport. That you have an opportunity to be athletic and play other sports. Don’t let the institutions that are out there running before you guaranteeing scholarship dollars and signing bonuses that this is the way. We have such great, dynamic arms in our game that it's a shame we're having one and two and three Tommy John recipients. 
So I want to encourage you, if nothing else, know that your children’s passion and desire to play baseball is something that they can do without a competitive pitch. Every throw a kid makes today is a competitive pitch. They don’t go outside, they don’t have fun, they don’t throw enough — but they’re competing and maxing out too hard, too early, and that’s why we’re having these problems. So please, take care of those great future arms.
I disagree with Smoltz in one respect. Baseball should not be (rather than is) a year round sport. Unfortunately, there are more and more coaches who tell their star players that in order to get that Division I scholarship, they need to play in next week's tournament or attend the following month's showcase when in truth, they probably don't.

Take Smoltz's advice to heart: "Don’t let the institutions that are out there running before you guaranteeing scholarship dollars and signing bonuses that this is the way... Know that your children’s passion and desire to play baseball is something that they can do without a competitive pitch." If we do, then maybe baseball will stop being a year-round sport.

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