All athletes want to compete. We all want to push through sore muscles and stay in the game or run a few extra miles.
Young athletes are no different in that sense. Even more than older athletes, kids don’t want to let others down. They don’t want to disappoint their teammates, coaches and parents. They often don’t tell anyone they are hurting for that reason.
Many injuries in youth sports are overuse injuries. They often start as soreness that gets worse, come on sooner in a game or practice, or take longer to go away. If they keep playing through the pain, they can develop more serious overuse injuries.
Since kids often won’t tell their coaches and parents they’re having pain, adults might only notice trouble when performance starts to suffer. It is definitely important to watch for signs of trouble, but I would argue it is just as critical to listen for them too.
To foster communication with your kids, you might start with innocent topics. “How did practice go today?” “What drills did the team do?” “Did you have fun with the other kids?” Don’t focus on performance or winning. Kids often feel pressure to win from coaches (and you).
Stick with lighthearted discussions, and your children will open up. It might take weeks or even months, but their trust and comfort talking to you will develop.
Why young athletes should play multiple sports
Recognize the signs of burnout in young athletes
Eventually they will discuss problems with you. Your child might let you know his shoulder hurts because he knows you won’t criticize him or push him to play through it. Most of these injuries resolve with some simple changes (a few days off, activity modification, or a short course of physical therapy). Catch them early. Talk to your child about pain, and you might prevent more serious injuries from developing.