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Midnight prep football practice, and other symptoms of sports insanity

Do a lot of parents think their kid is headed for the NFL?

I’m having a hard time understanding why else you would agree to send your 17- or 18-year-old off to a season kick-off football practice that ends an hour after last call.

It has been a month, and the world has not in fact stopped spinning, but we recently learned that a couple of very enthusiastic metro football programs staged a first practice last August at midnight. The reporters presented it straight, but as a parent who recently pulled the plug on dance classes for my preschooler because they all started at the dinner hour, I can’t imagine what lies ahead if this trajectory culminates with midnight sprinting drills.

“Sleep deprivation is one of the worst things we can do,” says Vern Gambetta, a Florida-based track and field and youth soccer coach and longtime critic of the insanity in youth sports. “It slows reaction times and probably will predispose to injury.” Closer to home, William Doherty, PhD, a professor of family and social sciences at the U of M and champion for family dinners, was equally nonplussed.

“A one-time midnight practice before school starts is pretty harmless,” he writes in an email. “What troubles me is the regular 5 a.m. or 10 p.m. hockey practices for community sports teams that are not regulated in the way that school sports are regulated. And the taking of so many weekends during the year for traveling teams that children join at younger and younger ages. Some children play more games in their ‘specialized’ sport than professional athletes do, and without a long seasonal break.”

College programs originated the midnight-practice stunt in the 1970s, and have already abandoned it.

Here’s an idea: How’s about a 3 o’clock pep rally? Three p.m.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 09/18/2009 - 04:00 pm.

    Sports are completely out of control in this country. It’s gotten so that the only way for young people to get their names in the media is to commit a crime or be a sports star.

    Even back when I was in high school in the 1960s, sixth period on Friday was a compulsory pep fest. When teachers complained that their sixth period students were getting behind their other classes, the principal decreed that the periods be switched on a regular basis every Friday, so that fifth period classes would meet in the last slot on one Friday, fourth period classes the following Friday, and so on. Canceling the pep fests was never even discussed.

    I have to wonder about the parents who push their children into sports. Is it a mistaken notion that sports will keep them out of trouble? Is it futile dreams of producing a star professional player? Or is it some fantasy about the child winning a college scholarship?

    For all the vaunted advantages of team sports, young people can gain the advantages in other ways. Walking or cycling to school would provide great exercise for the majority. Participation in the arts teaches responsibility, teamwork, and diligence and is emotionally and intellectually fulfilling as well. For example, putting on a musical can use the talents of every student in a school, not only actors, dancers, and musicians, but also costume designers, scene painters, carpenters, managers, and publicists. Best of all, after a successful theatrical, dance, or music performance, everyone goes home happy.

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