A conversation with a concerned parent sparked a train of thought the last few weeks that lead me to deeper thinking and eventually putting my thoughts to type. There question was from the perspective of if you had to do it all over again, would you have participated in the same sports? They were coming from the perspective of injury and how some of my joints are a little painful most days.
The question in a nut shell "Was it worth it?"
That is easy. Yes.
My memories, friendships, lessons and overall out look on life has been influenced heavily from sports. I wouldn't change that.
Granted, my injuries I feel are minor compared to others, so I'm sure many people would have different perspectives. I can only speak for myself.
In fact, while I did get injuries in sport, I received just as many injuries in the weight room or in training. This is where I would have changed the most. If I had a time machine, I would go back to change my training habits and attitude.
In the early 90's when I was fully invested in training for football, the internet wasn't around. I was still using Encylopedia's to look up topics, not Google. There really wasn't much training info out there. Like most kids that age, the monthly Muscle and Fitness was as close to authority as we had. There weren't seminars. Blogs and online forums were words that didn't exist. In fact, there weren't many books. I remember finding Eric Dickersons Power book and feeling like I hit the jackpot. It didn't matter it was just pictures of Eric doing body building movements.
I had a heavy bodybuilding focus. The high school I attended was influenced by Bigger, Faster, Stronger. I can remember spending so much time doing the dot drill thinking I was getting faster. The dot drill is our modern day speed ladder. Gets you tired and there ends the use. Luckily I loved squatting. I also think I benched three times a week because if it was tested in the NFL combine, it must be important for football players!
I believed this approach (see below video) and most everyone that I knew believed the same.
I also believed something like this would have been useless.
The mentality was lift heavy and lift as much as you could. Bigger was better. More weight was better. Soreness meant you were doing something right. Puking meant you had a good conditioning workout. This was pretty much my mentality from 9th grade up till my first shoulder dislocation playing rugby in chiro school.
The problem with this mentality is when you are younger, if you show up, lift hard and keep adding weight to the bar, it works! It works wonderfully! But what no one ever told me, was it only works for so long. There reaches a point of diminishing returns. At a certain point I was big enough to play college football. I didn't need to get bigger. I needed to get more explosive, more dynamic, better conditioned for my sport. Sometimes success from things you have done in the past is the worst indicator of what should be done next.
Muscle imbalances started to creep in by way of frequently pulling muscles. The first lower back injury squatting. Shoulder dislocations from huge shoulder girdle imbalances. Mobility started to decrease.
In high school and college I'd wake up early to get in another conditioning session. Sleep wasn't even on my radar as something important. I wanted to get bigger and sleep was being cut out of the equation. I wish I could go back and just tell myself, SLEEP! Sleep 9-10 hours a night. It's the biggest anabolic/recovery tool you can have. Want to get bigger and stronger. Sleep more.
Football, Track, Rugby and Bobsled have all influenced me somehow from a training perspective, from the people I've met and places I've been. I wouldn't change the games, I would change my preparation for them.
I feel bad for the kids these days, they are actually in worse shape then my generation. They have been duped into thinking they will be better athletes from doing one sport. (The Tiger Woods effect) They are being sold speed ladders and specialty camps. I grew up with out any experts, this one is growing up with experts everywhere. They are being robbed of play and given programs. When it finally is time to specialize, they are building a pyramid without a base of athleticism or strength. These pyramids crumble easily. Hence the fastest growing surgery is pediatric. Kids are getting hurt more.
So as a parent and speaking to other parents. Don't worry about the Game. (Whatever your kid picks) Worry about the lack of play, the lack of movement and variability, the lack of smart training. Take interest in that. This I believe is the important part.
PS. As a caveat, we have some really smart people I know of that I can direct you toward in Grand Rapids and even across the country.