by Gwen Holtsclaw, President and CEO of Cheer Ltd.
It had been a great seminar. The coaches at this national conference had listened intently as I discussed “The Ethics of Coaching.” When I opened the Q & A session, I expected to get questions on a variety of ethical dilemmas like confidentiality, body image, and bullying. I was wrong.
The first question was “Do you believe coaches are unethical when they knowingly overtrain these young athletes just to win?” and that question opened the floodgates: What constitutes overtraining? Is overtraining even a real thing? Whose “fault” is overtraining?
Let’s take the questions in reverse order. Overtraining is not an issue of “fault.” Rather, it is a classic example of coaches and cheerleaders doing the wrong thing for the right reason. Coaches practice too long, too hard, and too frequently because they want to create a successful and winning season for their team. Cheerleaders work too hard, play past real pain, and ignore an injury because they don’t want to let the team down. The reasons are right—the overtraining, however, is wrong.
Overtraining is definitely a real thing. It masks itself as dedication and “no pain, no gain” when it is really an epic failure to balance hard work with proper rest and recovery. Too often, cheer coaches fail to realize that they are not coaching full grown adults. Children and teenagers are vulnerable to growth-plate injuries all the way to 18 years of age with 16-18 being prime injury years. Overtraining has the most direct impact on these growth-plate injuries.
How can coaches know what constitutes overtraining and when they have crossed the line from a well-disciplined team to an overtrained team? Take a broad look at your team and see if you detect any of these […]