Playing variety of sports makes athlete well rounded, reduces injuries


Youth Sports

October 21, 2007|By CAL RIPKEN JR.

DEAR CAL -- How do I deal with coaches trying to steer my kid away from sports other than his own? My son is a high school sophomore who plays JV football and baseball. He loves baseball and has more talent in that sport. But he likes football and is showing promise. The varsity football coach is trying to persuade him to drop baseball. The coach has camps he considers mandatory that fall right during travel baseball season.

Keith Vaughan, Ashtabula, Ohio

DEAR KEITH -- At Ripken Baseball, we belive kids should play a variety of sports if they desire. If you are a better all-around athlete, you are going to be a better baseball or football player. Sports such as soccer help develop your endurance, balance and leg strength, and sports such as basketball promote lateral quickness, explosiveness and anaerobic conditioning.

For kids, it is more enjoyable to build overall athleticism by participating in a variety of sports than by doing agility drills or participating in a similar program several times a week.

Participation in a variety of sports also helps prevent athlete burnout. The possibility of physical burnout and overuse injuries also grows the more a young athlete continually participates in physically demanding activities.

You should schedule a private meeting with the varsity football coach to explain your situation. Offer to take the coach to lunch or to meet outside the school environment. Without getting emotional, explain that your child is excited that the coach wants him to play football, but that he loves baseball, too.

My guess is that if your son is doing all he can to meet the commitment and the coach is aware of that going in, there won't be a problem.

DEAR CAL -- Can you suggest drills to help increase my throwing strength during the offseason? I'm especially looking for things I can do indoors once the weather gets bad.

Katie Travis, Hagerstown

DEAR KATIE -- Nothing builds arm strength like throwing. If you combine a consistent throwing program with a rotator cuff strengthening program prescribed by a certified strength and conditioning coach or a certified athletic trainer, your arm strength should increase.

I would suggest starting with a five-minute dynamic, full-body workout to get blood flowing to all your muscles. Then I would stretch your arms to get them loose before throwing.

From that point, I would begin with short tossing until your throwing muscles feel warmed up and then gradually move back. Concentrate on proper throwing mechanics at all times - keep the elbow above the shoulder, point the front shoulder toward the target, step toward the target and follow through or follow the throw.

As with any strengthening program, you should throw until your arm is fatigued. Start by throwing for 15 minutes the first week and increase the session by five minutes each week.

In addition to strengthening your arm, you always want to work on your accuracy. Always try to throw the ball to the chest or face level of your partner.

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

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