Kids today are starting sports younger and training harder. But is the “more is better” attitude helping or hurting them?
IT’S SPRING, AND all over the county kids are waking up early and eating a good breakfast, and parents are filling up the gas tanks to drive across town, to cheer on their offspring as they play their little hearts out. Thousands of kids are breaking in their new cleats, softening their new baseball gloves or tightening a new super-aerodynamic pair of swim goggles. Oh, the joys of being a kid in Marin County. Most of these young athletes compete in what is often called a “rec” league, meaning the games are usually parents in their own town, teammates are often classmates and coaches are volunteer parents.
However, there is another group of Marin young people, also waking up and eating a good breakfast and preparing for a game, which on any given day could be in Sacramento, Concord or even Reno. These kids might have a particular talent or an early aptitude because they have been introduced to the sport by a sibling or by parents motivated to provide their kid the learning experience of being on a more competitive team. These children, often identified as early as 7 years old, are being steered to play for competitive travel teams that carry prestigious labels like Select, Club and Elite.