In this article, Hamish reflects on a conversation with a mum about her daughter’s upcoming football schedule.
Last weekend, I was down at my local football club, talking to Sarah*. In the throes of our conversation, Elise*, Sarah’s 14-year-old daughter and a football player came up. Naturally, I enquired about how football was going for Elise this year.
60 seconds later, I was gobsmacked by the turn of our conversation. Sarah started to tell me how Elise was about to navigate 7 games of football in 9 days! For context – Elise plays in three teams: one school team and two club teams.
I asked Sarah how she felt about this. Sarah, obviously concerned about the load on Elise during this period, told me how she had been in contact with Elise’s three coaches to set expectations around commitment to training (i.e. Elise would be missing some of them during this period) and had started negotiating with the coaches of different teams about capping the amount of time she could play.
I broached with Sarah some of the things she might want to consider around fatigue and burnout, particularly as Elise was an adolescent female. Sarah was obviously aware that this amount of football was at the red-lining end of the spectrum.
But as she put it, Elise had various reasons for wanting to commit to it all (all of them perfectly rational I might add):
- She didn’t want to let down the school team, where she was one of the better players
- She had just made her way into the starting lineup for the premier club team
- She was captain of her Under 15 club team
To me, this conversation was a microcosm of the macrocosm
Afterwards, I wondered how many other teenage girls would be in a similar boat as Elise navigating this 9-day stretch.
And how many teenage girls would have a Sarah in their corner, trying their best as a parent, to help them navigate it?
We could speak about the system here, and how it enables, incentivizes or otherwise, the likes of Elise to play on three teams at the same time.
But the bit I’m most curious about is how parents help their children (particularly those like Elise) navigate load, scheduling conflicts and the like.
In the messiness of real life, I don’t know if there’s a perfect answer here, other than to add the old idiom, knowledge is power, and the more informed a parent is, then hopefully the better their decision-making (and overall ability to support in instances such as these).
So what do parents need to know?
To answer this, you could end up with a pretty exhaustive list. As a starting point, the resources outlined below will support parents in making good decisions around their child’s sport schedules and load (and, more generally, to think about their child’s development in and through sport):
- A parent guide to child growth and development in sport
- How much is too much when it comes to youth sport? - A guide to understanding specialisation, playing multiple sports, and training load (start with this one)
- A practical guide for monitoring athlete training and competition load (before this one)
- The art and science of coaching young women
- Mastering the art of sports parenting
Parents, what are your strategies?
If you’re a parent who has some strategies or tactics for managing sports schedules and high athlete training and competition loads, we’d love to hear from you.
*Sarah and Elise are pseudonyms.