Cross-training: Not Just for Sports

A recent Sports Illustrated article detailed the work of Dr. James Andrews and his STOP (Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention) campaign to curb sports injuries in children.  It turns out that stress fractures in cross-country runners, frayed ligaments in soccer players, and strained shoulders in tennis players make up half of all injuries suffered by kids in sports – a concern that a generation ago was nonexistent.  According to Andrews the primary culprit in the increase in injuries is sports specialization.  Andrews argues that children should be involved in more than one sport and should not play in more than one league in the same sport.

But cross-training applies to more than just sports.  By way of extension, reading Andrews’ work brought to mind Nell Duke’s recent research on the impact of the lack of informational text in a student’s reading regimen.  It turns out that many young readers are trained on a set regimen of mostly fiction text.  As a result, many become adept with fiction targeted to their level.  But when faced with informational texts many students struggle to comprehend what they’re reading, a fact that is reflected in international testing data.  Many international students perform higher than their American counterparts in tests of reading ability simply because they are able to handle different sorts of texts.  Duke argues (subscription required) that young readers should be trained to read across an increasingly diverse regimen of texts starting from an early age.  Think of it as cross-training.  Fortunately, the recently released Common Core Standards have emphasizes the importance of informational text and many states have already begun realigning their curriculums to better reflect increased emphasis on nonfiction text.

That’s good news.  In the same way that many students are cross-training across athletics as a way to prevent injury, it is our hope that the students begin to focus on a wide, diverse variety of reading demands as a way to increase their facility with multiple types of text – an ability that will allow them to maintain their advantage in an increasingly competitive world.

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