Is your athlete juggling a summer job, training camps, off-season competitions, summer classes, volunteer hours, and maybe some down time with friends? It’s easy for young athletes to end up over-extended in the summer, and while a packed schedule isn’t necessarily a bad thing, not every athlete is equipped to handle such a heavy load.
Here, TrueSport Expert Amanda Stanec, PhD, the founder and owner of MOVE + LIVE + LEARN, is talking about how to help young athletes actually enjoy their leisure time so that when school rolls around, they’re refreshed and recharged, not on the edge of burnout.
Every athlete is different
If you have more than one child, you likely already know this: What works well for one student athlete may not work for another. “Every student athlete is a unique person,” says Stanec. “An athlete might truly thrive with a lot of structure that requires balancing a job, workouts, practices, and their service commitments, while another may really, really need time to recharge with a much more open schedule. As parents, it’s important that we ask our athletes what makes them feel as though they’re able to thrive and what type of environment they need.” She suggests experimenting: Have one week where your athlete is tightly scheduled with activities, followed by a week with minimal commitments. At the end, assess how each felt, and help your athlete find a good balance.
There are a lot of benefits to working a job
While athletes are highly individual, it’s hard to ignore the fact that working a summer job can be extremely beneficial for young people. Maybe your athlete only works 10 hours each week, but having a structured job not only lets them earn spending money—teaching them valuable financial lessons from a young age—it also gives them a sense of discipline and humility that they simply might not get from school. “A talented athlete who’s also naturally a great student may not deal with a lot of challenges in their early years,” Stanec says. Working a summer job may provide more challenge, and especially for an athlete from a small school, it gives them a chance to be exposed to a wider landscape of humanity.
No time for a job? Check the schedule again
“If a student-athlete doesn’t have time for a summer job because of their sport commitment as a high school student, I question their efficiency in what they’re doing in sport. I would fear burnout or overuse injury,” says Stanec.
Your athlete may not have time for a 30-hour per week commitment, but fitting in a 10-hour per week summer job? That should be possible. Otherwise, your athlete may be too tightly scheduled with sport and in need of more rest. If the team truly has so many practices or commitments that it’s impossible to hold a summer job, consider having a discussion with the coach. While some athletes may not have a choice about getting a summer job, no athletic program should be so intense that it eliminates the possibility.