Sports overload

Q: My kids love sports, but I’m concerned with overloading their schedules. How much is too much? 

A: Participation in sports can be very good for children and teens. It can promote positive socialization and help them develop skills for working through disputes and disagreements. 

It also helps them stay busy in positive activities and prevents excessive use of video games and Internet-based activities. 

Playing sports can also help them achieve an hour of moderate physical activity per day, which helps prevent childhood obesity. Oftentimes, self-confidence and self-esteem can be enhanced through participation, a positive outcome.

However, there are three general cautions regarding sports participation. Some children are not particularly interested, nor want to play, in sports.

Being forced to play can be defeating. 

As long as they get some physical activity most days, this is not a big concern for their future health. 

Second, some children are not particularly gifted athletically, which is fine, and encouraging participation is still okay. But it is also important to help them understand that they may not be a first-line or star player, so they can set reasonable expectations for themselves. The third, and final, caution has to do with the “sports schedule” overload. 

There are many areas that need to be developed in the first 20 years of life. If playing multiple sports takes up too much time, a child may not have an opportunity to learn additional meaningful life lessons or develop talent in academics, music and other important areas. 

Some families have their children focus on one or two sports and leave others to their peers.


This column is intended to provide general information only and not medical advice. Contact your health care provider with questions about your child. Dr. Peter Dehnel is a board-certified pediatrician and medical director with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota. Send questions to drdehnel@mnparent.com.