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How young is too young? How long is too long?

Posted by Gale Bernhardt on Jan 10, 2008 7:49:47 AM

How Young is too Young? How Long is too Long?


It is no secret I love endurance sports. I try to recruit people into an endurance event, any event, that is 30 minutes or longer. I must admit, however, that I am cautious about recruiting kids for long distance events.


On occasion I'm asked to talk to junior high and high school kids about endurance sports. I talk about the dedication and mental toughness it takes to be an Olympian. I tell them that being active in sport helps teach valuable lessons about goal setting, winning, losing, dedication, patience, just loving sport and other lessons I've learned along the way.



I don't have kids, so I can't speak from the perspective of a parent. I would think most endurance junkies (EJs) are thrilled when their kids show interest in endurance sports. I would guess most EJ-parents constantly reinforce the kids with positive remarks about running, swimming, riding or the other EJ sport of choice. The kids get attention and love related to sport, and associate parental acceptance with sport, I suspect.



I did encourage my niece and nephew to participate in sports. It didn't really matter to me which sport it was, but I did encourage them to play sports. I attended as many games as I possibly could. Yes, I gave them attention when they played sports.



If I had kids, I suspect I would encourage them to swim, bike and run. Would I encourage my 11-year-old to do a century ride? How about a 50-mile run? How about an ironman-distance triathlon?



What if the child really, really, really wanted to do it. (Forget that they really, really wanted to eat an entire chocolate cake for dinner two days ago and that rational decision making for an 11-year-old person is often not rational.) Would I let my child, encourage my child, to participate in the long distance sports?



I don't think so. Too young, in my opinion. I would have concerns with burning the kid out on endurance sports at a young age. I'd be concerned about growth plates and over-use injury. I'd be concerned that the child would be so busy "training" that they would miss the social aspects of being a kid and end up the Michael Jackson of endurance sports.



Well then, how about when the kid turns 12? 13? 14? 15? 16? When?



How young is too young to do a century ride? How about a 50-mile run? How about an ironman-distance triathlon?



Do you think there are parents out there that push a child to do long distance events for the wrong reasons? Do you think there are event directors that would support allowing children do long distance events so a new world record could occur at their event? Or, do all parents, race directors and other support people have only the best intentions at heart for the child?



Parents, coaches that specialize in youth sports, endurance junkies-what do you think? How young is too young? How long is too long?



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