Everyone needs a break from organized sports

ASK CAL

June 18, 2006|By CAL RIPKEN JR.

MY 16-YEAR-OLD, FOUR-sport son has a hard time with his multiple coaches' requirements of lifting during the off season. There is no off season for him. Do you think it is important for him to be lifting? He is most talented in baseball with Division III schools already scouting him in 10th grade.

Norine Hanke, Slinger, Wis.

DEAR NORINE / / I am very much in favor of young baseball players participating in other sports throughout the year. Playing other sports can really help a young person develop an overall athleticism that can't be attained by specializing in just one sport. It also can help young athletes avoid physical and mental burnout.

Ultimately, the choice about which sports to play should be made by your son. As long as his schoolwork doesn't suffer, you should encourage him to pursue the extracurricular activities that make him happy. However, when you say that he is a four-sport athlete, that makes me think that he is involved in some type of organized athletic activity for 12 months out of the year. Everyone, even elite, world-class athletes, needs a break at some point. While playing four sports is going to keep your son in great shape, his body might get fatigued and break down if he is going all out all of the time. Every off-season workout regimen includes at least a little rest after the season ends to give the body an opportunity to refuel. It is most likely that the physical demands of each sport will prevent him from participating in any strenuous off-season weight training program for those out-of-season sports.

If your son enjoys playing all four sports and doesn't want to give one of them up, let him keep plugging along. Make sure that you are upfront with his coaches about his schedule and how it will affect his off-season training for each sport. Be sure to keep an eye on your son to see whether he is in need of a break. If you think that he is, explain your feelings to him (don't forget to tell him why you feel that way) and ask him to consider giving up his least-favorite activity. The chances are slim that he is going to be able to play four sports in college, and if he really wants to be involved in at least one sport at the collegiate level, he may have to spend a little more time focusing his energy in that direction at some point.

I am the president of the local Little League. Recently, I had parents complain to me because their star hitter was intentionally walked. They don't understand the rules or strategy of the game. He gets intentionally walked a lot because he is big and has hit a lot of home runs when they do pitch to him. How should I respond to these parents?

Jack Waggoner, Salisbury

DEAR JACK / / This question is a little difficult to answer not knowing the age group over which you preside. However, I'm going to assume that you are referring to players who are 12 years old and younger. As the league president, you have to do what is in the best interest of your league as a whole. You can't arbitrarily impose a rule change that essentially will benefit one player or one team.

On the other hand, the ultimate goal of youth baseball leagues is to develop baseball players. It's hard for young players to get better if they are not allowed to hit in game situations. I would say that if intentional walks are a league-wide epidemic -- if the best players on many of the teams are getting denied an opportunity to hit -- then you might want to consider instituting some limits. If this situation is more isolated, as you have described it, then you should probably explain your role as league president to those who are complaining. It is quite possible that this young player would benefit by playing in an older age group or by looking for an alternative place to play, such as with a local "travel" team that may play at a higher level. Parents have the right to do what is best for their children, and there are many options available that might better suit their needs.

Have a question or issue arising from your involvement in youth sports? Send it by e-mail to askcal@baltimoresun.com.

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