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Can Summer Basketball Lead To Injuries, Emotional Burnout, and Diminishing Skills?- By Joe Haefner
As mentioned in the audio, if you play too many games compared to working on skills, your improvement will be limited.
It may take 20 games or MORE to get enough shots to match what you could do in just 1 skill session.
Along with the improper use of summer basketball to improve players, there are some other problems such as overuse injuries and emotional burnout.
When summer basketball teams play 30 to 60+ games and weekend tournaments that have 3 to 9 games within 36 hours, the players are more prone to injury. Often, the athlete's muscles start to fatigue after 1 or 2 games. When the muscle is fatigued, your chance of injury increases exponentially. There is a reason many NBA GM's dislike their players participating with their national teams. A better option may be a summer program or summer league that involves 2 to 3 skill sessions a week and 1 to 2 games a week.
According to the book, Sports Specific Rehabilitation by Robert Donatelli, "In 2001 an estimated 18 million children were treated for a sports/physical activity-related injury. Approximately, 50% of those injuries (9 million) were attributed to overuse mechanisms resulting in muscle damage."
That's a lot of overuse injuries. Could multi-game weekend tournaments and too much of the same sport have something to do with it?
- Emotional Burnout
Specialization and playing too many games can also lead to emotional burnout. This doesn't necessarily happen right away. Often times, it happens around ages 13 to 16. A recent study by AAHPER revealed that over 80% of kids who play in organized youth sports no longer play that sport after the age of 13.
I often hear the argument, but the kids want to play. This may be true and it's fine to do some summer basketball. However, you don't want to play 50 games! It's better to keep them wanting more than it is to force-feed them until they can't take anymore. It also helps build excitement for next year.
In addition to burning them out, specializing in a sport at a young age can hurt them as an athlete. In the book Children & Sports Training, Jozef Drabik states that coordination is best developed between the ages of 7 to 14. If this is true, wouldn't you want children to be involved in a wide variety of sports that challenge them differently to produce better athletes? Lebron James played football. Kobe Bryant played soccer. Steve Nash played soccer. Michael Jordan played football and baseball. Who knows how many sports they played as children that helped them turn into great athletes? It surely wasn't 1 and was probably more than 2.
My advice to youth parents and coaches would be to play seasonal sports. Play a bunch of different sports and make them fun. Kids are kids. A passion won't develop for something that isn't fun. If the passion to do something is gone, so is everything else.
When it comes time to start specializing (somewhere after age 15) and the athlete has a passion for a sport, they will come to you.