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When to Avoid Over-Training


Have you ever sat down with your children and mapped out their athletic schedule? Take out your calendar and write out how many times they practice as well as the number of games and tournaments they play. Do they take any days off? If they are choosing to play only one sport year-round, are they taking any time away from the sport?

Take a Step Back

While we know that specialization in one sport prior to puberty can be a risk factor for over-use injury, stress and burnout, we also know that training too many hours is also a significant risk to the mind and body. So, what are the appropriate steps we can take to avoid over-training?

The Dangers of Over-Training

First, we need to constantly monitor our weekly schedules. Do our kids play or train in their sport more than 16-20 hours? When you think about it, 20 hours of play breaks down to approximately 3 hours/day. This seems reasonable. But what happens when there are weekend tournaments? Some tournaments can take all day. Sleep is affected. Schoolwork is affected. Downtime is lost. Spontaneous play and time for friendship development outside of their chosen sport is limited.

The Parental Objective

Part of our goal as parents is not only to protect our kids from overuse injury, but also preserve their love of play. When their sports become their job, reevaluation of our priorities is warranted. We need to remind ourselves, “Do my children continue to enjoy their sport experience?” If we pay close attention, we might be surprised by what we learn.


This article was adapted by Dr. Ginsburg’s original posting on the US Lacrosse website.

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Dr. Richard Ginsburg
Dr. Richard D. Ginsburg is a clinical psychologist and sport psychology consultant. He is co-director of the Massachusetts General Hospital PACES Institute of Sport Psychology and is an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ginsburg also serves as staff psychologist in the Newton Wellesley Hospital Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Department and is the director of Behavioral Health for the Boston Red Sox. Dr. Ginsburg offers a broad range of clinical services to children, adolescents and adults and conducts youth and professional sport research. He is author of the book, Whose Game Is It, Anyway, A guide to helping your child get the most from sports, organized by age and stage and has served as a sport psychology consultant for a variety of professional and college-level sports teams, including lacrosse, soccer, water polo and ice hockey at Harvard University. He is a member of the US Lacrosse Safety and Science Committee and provides talks and consultations nationally to youth, high school, and collegiate athletic programs. Dr. Ginsburg played lacrosse and soccer at Kenyon College, where he won all-conference and all-Midwest honors. He is also a former independent school teacher and coach. He lives with his wife, Teri, and their two children in Newton, Massachusetts.