Burning out happens all too often

Don’t say you heard it from me, but too much sports can be bad.

When it comes to playing youth athletics, it can be suffocating not only for parents, but for players as well.

It’s a great idea to multi-task your young athlete, who may get tired or even lose interest in the one sport you’re grooming him or her to play.

Devil’s advocates might say it’s the only way their child will improve and get that elusive college scholarship.

But it backfires all too often.

In the May 29 issue of Sports Illustrated, I came across an article written by L. Jon Wertheim, featuring 14-year-old tennis prodigy Sekou Bangoura.

In a particular passage, Bangoura’s father said to reduce the intense focus on tennis, he supplemented his son’s training with golf, chess and piano lessons.

“It was like cross-training,” Bangoura said in the article. “If we diverted his time instead of being on the courts for eight hours, it was going to keep (Sekou) fresher.”

Did it work?

In this case, Sekou began to excel at all three activities. He’s even better at golf than tennis. He’ll be playing in the Junior World Golf Championships in San Diego in July on an exemption from the Tiger Woods Foundation.

Oh, and he’s currently ranked fourth in the nation in his age group for hitting the yellow ball.

Staying fresh is the key, and I witnessed a case here on the island where a youth just lost interest because he was burned out.

His father would take him golfing almost every day and he would practice like a PGA Tour professional.

But he was good and it showed. He would become the best in his age group from the start, and he would even measure up with older youths.

He was a natural in the sport, a shoo-in to ride the wave all the way to a college scholarship.

However, things changed when he entered high school. He began to play other sports and he also grew a few inches.

Golf wasn’t his top priority anymore and his father began to notice it. He tried to stick with it, but after one last try, it all fell apart and so did his game.

The boy’s love for the sport vanished like David Copperfield’s rabbit.

Gone were the days of hitting balls and pitching from behind the bunkers.

He was burned out.

It happens all the time, all around the world. Bangoura’s story is a perfect example.

And the young tennis star’s father couldn’t have said it any better at the end of the article, when he cited an African proverb.

“When you build a house, build it with more than one door,” he said. “That way, when a lion comes in the front door, you have other ways to get out.”

Allowing your child the freedom to explore other interests is probably the greatest gift you could give him or her.

Just remember to guide instead of push.

• Duane Shimogawa Jr., sports editor, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 257) or kauaisports@kauaipubco.com.

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