Last month, a Responsible Sports Parent
wrote to our panel of experts to ask: Should a high school athlete be allowed to train for sports outside of his normal already-busy school sports schedule.
Bert wrote in and asked: "There is a 16-year-old 3-sport high school sophomore in our school who is interested in running a full marathon during competitive soccer season. This athlete has never trained for a marathon, plays soccer, hockey and runs intermediate track distance events. One of his parents is a runner who has successfully completed 3 marathons, and feels that the son is capable of participation without detriment to schoolwork/other interests/commitments and wishes the son to enter/compete in the next one. But the other parent is not a runner, and feels the son may not fully understand the impact of training/participation and does not want the son to train or participate due to commitments to high school sports teams/studies and possible wear-and-tear injuries. What would you advise?"
We asked two of our experts to weigh in. Sam Snow - Director of Coaching, US Youth Soccer,
weighed in and had this to say:
"I would not recommend running the marathon during the soccer season or the season of competition in the other two sports in which this athlete participates. Why?
Physical – Clearly running a marathon is physically draining and it will take a minimum of three days to recover, and that’s for a trained marathoner, not a 16-year-old soccer player. So for a few days before the marathon and for a week after the marathon the player would be unable to train or play with the soccer team.
Social – because of the time the marathon would take the player away from the soccer team before, during and after the marathon the team would be without this player. The commitment the player had made to the team will not be fulfilled. Letting down your teammates is not what team sports are about.
Conflicted Training – the training for running a marathon (aerobic) and for playing soccer (largely anaerobic) are at cross purposes with one another. For the S.A.I.D. principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) takes the body about six weeks to fully adjust. The physical and mental training for these two sports are simply too far apart from one another. The athlete will not be properly prepared for the demands of either sport."
"I believe the parents’ role in this sort of situation is to help guide their child through a decision making process that will result in him making the best decision about whether or not to train for and compete in this marathon.
From what you’ve written, it certainly does sound like this student athlete has a full plate, but if he’s hitting his goals in the classroom, with his already existing sports commitments, and with other family obligations, then it seems he’s earned the right to add more to his plate, if he determines he’s passionate enough to do it.
As a former high school coach, I would also encourage him to talk with his soccer coach. He might just go to the coach and say, "I want to talk with you about my desire to run a marathon later this spring. I realize that’s during our season, so that’s why I’m here to talk with you about it."
If after talking with his coach, he still wants to move forward with the marathon, I’d have my son talk with an athletic trainer or sports medicine doctor about his training plans. They can give him specific tips on how to avoid overuse injuries – and perhaps even give your family some warning signs to keep an eye out for during training.
We talk about sports’ ability to help kids learn life lessons, and figuring out whether or not it’s the right move for him to participate in this marathon is a wonderful process for your 16-year-old to go through at this time in his life."