Too much practice can ruin the career of talented players


Research indicates, that a too high level of activity can restrict the development for the best players. This is due to the additional strain being put on the player, which increases the risk of short and long-term injuries.

August 28th, 2017

Too much practice can ruin the career of talented players
It is an important factor for the development of the players, that they also spend enough time resting and recovering thoroughly, between practice and matches.

As kids, we’re told constantly about the importance of regular exercise. In football, it is often the most talented players, that has spent the most time with the ball on the pitch. Yet, it is also an important factor for the development of the players, that they also spend enough time resting and recovering thoroughly, between practice and matches. A Norwegian university has previously stated:

- Practice that as a starting point is aimed at giving the football players an advantage, will instead become a disadvantage. It can restrict the development of the future football player. It is said, that you have to practice in order to become better, but some players train to such extents that they are more likely to experience injuries, Stig Arve Sæther argues, who is the university lecturer in sport and exercise at Norway’s Technical Science University according to DR.

He refers to a research project carried out in 2015, where Norwegian junior players were equipped with a accelerometer, that measures physical activity, which proved that their body were much more exhausted than other children of the same age. 901 movements per minute, compared to 542 movements per minute – in other words, a 65% higher level of movement, which reduces the recovery to a great extent.

- Simultaneously, it can be difficult to maintain your motivation, when you have not fully recovered, he argues.

Mental burn out

Stig Arve Sæther believes, that when constantly training constantly combined with the additional pressure from their surroundings, especially the talents can experience the opposite effect than the desired purpose. He believes that it increases the risk of “burning out” mentally.

Specifically, he believes that this is true amongst the great football talents, whom often next to their general training with their team, also has specialised individual training. The research also indicated, that the individuals that had partaken in other sports throughout their teenage years, had the greatest level of motivation to train, that is required to utilise their talent fully. Furthermore, the study also concluded that if a child only had participated in one sport, it is impossible to completely know exactly what the child prefers.

- They believe that the sport is fun and entertaining. The players own motivation is also the most prominent when the coach has to define talent, and what characterises the players, whom are successful, Sæther Argues.

This inner motivation, a good coach can help to find and develop. Not only in the form of good coaching. But also through recognising and appreciating the development of the player, while keeping a good dialog with the player about potential everyday problems, that the player might have at home or amongst friends.

10,000 training hours

In top sport, it is often said that one must have trained 10,000 hours within 10 years in order to reach the top within their sport. That is, 1,000 hours per year, or 19 hours per week. If a child is to train nearly 3 hours per day, 7 days a week, the stress experienced becomes a major problem and recovery is nearly impossible. The pressure that is put on young talents, is therefore according to the Norwegian researcher is therefore a dominant factor which results in mental exhaustion along with physical injuries, that can last for the rest of the players life.

While Denmark’s female national team in handball, triumphs in the 1997 world cup, the today unknown player Merete Møller sat on the bench with an injury. She stayed on the bench until the pain from her injury became too great to continue pursuing her career in handball. Today she still has to deal with the pain that was caused all those years ago.

Today, she works as a physiotherapist with a ph.d from Aarhus University, and understands more than most what a injury from training can result in. In 2017, she carried out an extensive study on should pain amongst young Danish handball players. The conclusion of the report, was that if the training of 14-18 year olds is not strictly controlled and managed in terms of quality and quantity, the player stands a much greater risk of developing tremendous shoulder injuries, that not only can ruin the players career in sport, but also harm the individual’s future life on the labour market.

- The latter is very important to understand, not only for the individual player, but for trainers and others responsible in the handball community, Møller explains, and adds:

- In the last 20 years, much has been discovered in the area of injuries, however our knowledge has not been implemented in Danish handball. Therefore, it is important that we learn from the knowledge available, so that we can reduce the amount of shoulder injuries, and so that we can reduce the development of chronic pain.

Insert sub headline Increasing tendency of injuries

The report also showed that 104 out of the 679 sample individuals developed shoulder injuries throughout the research. Such a high number is a cause for concern Merete Møller believes:

- It very concerning, that so many young players develop shoulder pain throughout a single season. This is mainly due to the fact that there is a lack of overview of the total training hours of the individual player, and therefore action is not taken.

Møller comments, that it is no easy task for the coach to manage the individual member’s time spent practicing. Some train in the morning while some train in the afternoon, and many practice twice a day.

- The young players love to train – I was no different. Some youngsters train even more than the older players and can handle it better. Others can’t. Merethe Møller states as a final comment.

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