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Should kids train for sports outside of school and club sports? The experts at Responsible Sports weigh in.

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 wrestling season. This athlete has never trained for a marathon, plays football, wrestling, 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. Steve Fraser 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist, and Head Coach of the Greco-Roman National Team, weighed in and had this to say:

“With this limited information I would say the following: Running the marathon would be no problem… depending on how hard the wrestler will train, how his school work is going, and what his attitude is.
If school work is up to par, wrestling and running a marathon would be fine. Especially if the 16 year old loves to train and is somewhat of a runner to begin with. Keep in mind you can run 26 miles at an easier pace with the idea/goal to just finish it and/or use the event to help him condition for his wrestling career. Could be a great confidence builder too.

My question would be, Does the youngster want to do this? The boys attitude is crucial in this situation. Who’s idea is this? The wrestlers or the parents?”

Training properly and thoughtfully will always play a big factor in injury prevention.

Common sense and good recovery days are the key here.
Hope these comments provoke some thought and help the 16 year old and his parents to make the right decision.

And Tina Syer, Chief Impact Officer from Positive Coaching Alliance answered:

“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 wrestling 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.”

Do you have a youth wrestling question you’d like to pose to our panel of experts? Visit us online and ask your question today! We regularly post answers on and each month we’ll feature one question here at USA Wrestling.
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