I remember waking up this summer and reading an article about Patrick Kane playing beer league hockey with his friends and even being the beer league MVP. It reminded me of the infamous Michael Jordan clause- For the Love of the Game Clause- where Michael Jordan was allowed to play pick up games without recourse of losing his contract our pay if he got hurt participating in non-team sanctioned pick-up games. Both Patrick Kane and Michael Jordan have more at stake than some of my high-school amateur players, but if you were to ask some local coaches, that may not be the case.
School sports are one of the only times where students whether they excel or not get an opportunity to perform with their peers, and in-front of their peer group on an everyday basis. Peer recognition and school pride is at stake, but many students will not participate not because they do not want to, but because their club coaches will not allow them to. I believe that if parents are worried about their child's health and injury risks then parents should make those decisions, but as it currently stands, many of the players at local schools want to play but are coerced by their club coaches to not. Some are even threatened and punished with playing time if they miss a practice for another sport.
Coaching both club and school sports I understand the argument on both sides. Club coaches spend countless of hours coaching and developing players and do not want to see them get hurt playing outside of their control. They may see some school coaches as not qualified to coach soccer and thus will not understand injury prevention and over-tiredness. School coaches are faced with shortened seasons, but athletes who want to play sports but are told not to. People point at lack of skill of some players in certain leagues which could lead to injury to high performing athletes, but injury could happen anywhere? I am trying to understand the difference between injuries at the club sport compared to an injury at a school sport?
Nonetheless, looking at the Long Term Athletic Development model most of the students I coach would be in the Train to Train: where young athletes need to build an aerobic base and consolidate their sport- specific skills. Towards the end of the stage, they need to focus on strength and the anaerobic alactic energy system. Increased training hours are needed at this stage to develop each athlete’s long-term potential (LTAD, Stages website). Notice its focus is not winning, but more on training for athletes. Students starting highschool basketball in grade 9 should be able to play the sport they love without fear of repercussion from club coaches. They are not just training but consolidating and transferring sport specific skills to their new sports. They are being active and and playing sports that they will hopefully love and play for life.
In the end, some of my best youth experiences were not just travelling with my club teams but playing and travelling with my friends. If we focus more on developing humans that are healthy and are active in their adulthood rather than focusing on winning at such a young age, you will give students more of an opportunity to train and practice their skill sets by playing multiple sports. Beyond this, the skills of humanity, leadership, teamwork, friendship will carry on into their adulthood making the active participants in society. In the end, let the kids play for the LOVE OF THE GAME!