Let Your Kids Play

By Coach Travis Mash

I see a lot of parents doing a lot of crazy things with their kids. I see athletes at 9-years-old playing year round soccer and baseball. I see parents driving their kids into the ground before middle school. My question is why?

I don’t intend on making a lot of best friends with this article. I am simply going to tell you the facts of this matter. I want you all to be educated so that you can make your own decisions based on the facts. A lot of you trust coaches and other parents, so it’s not really your fault. The problem is that most youth coaches are volunteers that aren’t educated on the facts any more than you are.

Here’s point #1. No one is recruiting your nine-year-old. If you believe that, I have a beautiful island in the Pacific to sell you as well.

Let me tell you what you are really doing. You are beating that child into the ground. Our bodies are like any other machine. If you run them in the ground, they will break down. Over use injuries are the most common injuries with today’s young athlete. If you do anything over and over, it will eventually break down.

Here’s how a strength and conditioning coach is going to prepare his child. I am going to let them play and play a lot. Everyday my sons Rock and Behr play. They run, jump, climb, roll, crawl, fall down, and get up. This is what most kids are missing nowadays. Simply put, they are not tough and resilient from a life filled with play outdoors because they are too busy playing a sport year round or in front of a screen.

If you want your child to move like an athlete, let them play. That’s how they learn to move at an early age. My sons can already do things that I can’t, and they are just three and one. If you want their core strong, then let them play. I promise when they are crawling and climbing, their core is getting strong. If you don’t believe me, you should try it. The same goes for mobility.

One thing that I will encourage all of you to do with your children is gymnastics. I take Rock to Salem Gymnastics in Winston-Salem, NC, and I promise there is nothing better for a youngster. It’s our favorite thing that we do together. Mr. Jeff is his instructor, and he is awesome with all the kids. Behr is going to start this fall, and I think that he is going to crush it.

At Salem Gymnastics, Rock is learning to forward and backwards roll, pull-up, flip around a bar, muscle-up, handstand, and balance on beams. Also there are random obstacles for the kids to climb, bounce on, jump over, and slide down. It’s a kids dream, and all the while they are getting jacked. I can honestly say that gymnastics has given my son a distinct edge in development over other kids his age. He is able to do things that most kids are simply not ready for.

As Rock and Behr grow up we plan on introducing them to multiple sports and activities. I am sure that one-day they will gravitate towards a sport, but I can promise you that it won’t be before high school. I want them to be great athletes, and well-rounded young men. That means they are going to try some art classes, music classes, and hopefully some different languages.

I am not going to push my sons one way or the other. I was a good athlete, so I don’t need to live through my son. I just want to sit back, and enjoy watching the process. I will help facilitate any of their hopes and dreams, but I am not going to drive either one of them one way or the other. It’s their life. My job is to guide them not drive them.

Let me leave you with this one bit of truth. If your son or daughter is good enough, they will earn that scholarship. If they are not, they won’t. I have watched several kids start a sport in the 11th grade, and they still earned a scholarship. If you are a great athlete, you will get noticed.

Here’s the hard truth. Not every child is going to earn a scholarship. I know that’s news that a lot of you don’t want to hear, but it’s the truth. You can specialize them from birth. You can get speed and agility classes four times per day. If they didn’t receive the right genetics with the right mental approach, it’s not going to happen.

In my career as a strength and conditioning coach, I have watched so many parents drive their children into the ground, and all the while the children didn’t even want to play. They played because their parents made them.   All they really wanted was for their parents to be proud of them.

Some of you are missing your kid’s entire childhood because you are so focused on them being some great athlete. How about just loving your child unconditionally, and enjoying your time with them. That doesn’t mean that you don’t help them get better. If they want to get better at speed, strength, and agility, then take them to an expert. The key is “if they want to get better”!

I plan on watching Rock and Behr grow up into a men and enjoying every second of it. If they are great athletes, then I will enjoy watching them perform. If they are great artists, then I will enjoy their creations. Whatever they do, I will enjoy every second of it.

If you want to help your children develop athletically, let them play and introduce them to lots of sports until high school. That will make them great athletes, and it will save their joints for when it counts. I am writing this at 5am, so it is kind of early for a rant. I just wanted to at least let all of you know the truth. At the end of the day you are the parents, and you are going to do what you believe is best for your children. I understand that, and I don’t believe any of you would do anything to intentionally harm your children. Now you have some facts to make your decisions with, and I hope these points have helped you.

Now get your kids outside and let them play! We have a fun and well thought out youth strength and conditioning class at LEAN Fitness. We teach our kids to run, jump, climb, and crawl. We teach them the basic movement patterns that have been lost with rise of computers and smart phones. Our goal is to make your children better athletes, while learning to move better and having fun. Coach Sarah Johnson, C.S.C.S. does a great job with our kids.

Feel free to check out a class for FREE by emailing us at leanfitnesssystems@gmail.com . Mention this article in the subject line, and we will get you scheduled.