I'd be interested to hear what the "strings attached" should be. I'll bet when you get down to it, they're pretty much the same as avoiding early specialization. Certainly the things you've mentioned in your post are part of a well rounded young athlete's development. The easiest way, for instance, to learn how to run correctly, is to join a track club. Sure, you could just "take lessons", but since you're learning the ropes - why not run a few meets. The mental skills you learn in one sport are almost always transferable - why not learn to embrace and enjoy competing whenever you can?
Also - I don't have issue with pretty much year-round contact with a given sport or two. I have issue with year-round, full-time emphasis on one sport at the expense of all others. I think it is important to maintain some touch with any sport at least maybe once or twice a week through an off-season, but I think it's mentally important to have balance and periodization - a sense of when you're trying to be your BEST at a given sport, so you can learn the mental and physical skills of resting and peaking.
I DO know that the mentality at an early age of "I'm a [insert sport here] player, and [insert sport here] is my life" is NOT the correct way to raise a young athlete. Balance and well roundedness is.
I encouraged my kids to play sports. My three oldest all played a variety of sports. One ended up playing basketball and softball. One played softball and basketball, but decided to drop basketball to my chagrin in HS, because she wanted to concentrate on softball. The boy wrestled, played baseball and wanted to play HS football (but the coach was a dirt-bag so he quit), but played baseball all the time (daily). I think giving kids the opportunity to try different sports is the way to go. They need to find their own way and they need to decide their own path. IMO, that is the fundamental; exposure and choice. The choices and direction they make are their own. (I was brokenhearted that one daughter wanted to drop out of travel basketball and only play one sport in HS, but I could only muster a few encouraging words about playing basketball in HS until she cut me off.)
I agree with the essence of the thread that over specialization at too early an age can cause physical and emotional burnout. IMO, the emotional burnout is often caused if the choice and push comes from the parent(s) and not from the child. As I said above, over use of a limited set of muscles at any age causes injury. Time away is critical. Shutting down for 3 months is more than sensible.
The strings attached reference I posed above had to do with enforcing a down period, inserting time for weights and physical training so as to help the body build balance and strength--just game playing and practicing causes an imbalance in physical development that often leads to injury.
We may however disagree with the "need" to play other sports once in HS. If the factors I presented are addressed, I am fine with the kid focusing on one sport if that is his/her choice. I am of the opinion that parents shouldn't force the issue one way or the other. Parents need to be vigilant about the amount and duration of physical stress children may put on their growing bodies and guide the child so that his/her body is not damaged. In the case of my son, I let him throw year round and should have stepped in and shut him down. In the case of one daughter, I should have "forced" the issue of weight training so that her body had the muscles/strength to minimize the chances of an ACL tear. If that daughter had played softball and basketball in HS, I would bet she still would have had her knee injury.
If a child wants to run track, that is great, but running track on a HS team is a full time commitment. IMO, the child will not be in position to run HS track and still practice/play his/her desired sport. IMO, it would be a huge mistake to try to double up the way you seem to indicate in your post. That would crowd out education or goofing around time. (I don't think you meant what I am understanding from your post, because I respect your POV about balance and rest.)
Edited by SoxFanSince57, 08 June 2010 - 05:02 PM.