Mulit-Sport Athlete or Sport Specialization?

14 09 2009

Brady Greco, Performance Coach

For the past decade, sport specialization has become one of the worst trends to infect youth and high school athletes.  Recent statistics show a vast decline in the production of multi-sport athletes prior to reaching high school.  Not only does this hinder the overall athleticism and coordination of a child, but it also neglects the child of gaining valuable opportunities and life experiences.  There are many excuses why more and more young athletes fall victim to this epidemic, however after assessing all the pros and cons, you may find yourself wondering why this is even a problem to begin with.  The benefit of playing more than one sport will positively increase your physical and psychological long-term development as an athlete and individual.

Coaches and parents are two of the main scapegoats for the succession of sports specialization.  Many parents become so enmeshed in their child’s athletic performance; they become blinded for what is best for the long-term development of their child.  This can lead to parents pressuring their child to choose one sport in pursuit of future rewards.  Most often these plans back-fire and the child ends up quitting all sports due to the constant pressure, stress, and training that go along with concentrating on excelling in one sport.  Disturbing cases occur when children are forced to make decisions before they have the chance to fully develop and realize their potential in all sports.  Being that every sport has different skills and mindsets, the developmental stages significantly differ from sport to sport.  This means, that if an athlete peaks early in one sport and decides to quit their involvement in other sports, they are missing the opportunity to develop in a sport that could be more fitted for them in the long run.  Because many young athletes are geared to play one sport, they often get physically and mentally drained from being forced into a rigorous and monotonous routine at too early of an age.  In fear of disappointing their parents and coaches, these young athletes stick with the sport even when they begin to resent the sport, along with their parents.  In turn, athletes who play more than one sport receive a break both mentally and physically and have a better chance of attaining optimal potential.  More and more coaches have also been advocates for single sport athletes.  These coaches fear athletes will injure themselves while participating in other sports.  Statistics show, however, there are more injuries that occur when playing one sport due to the repeated stress on the same joints, muscles, and bones, resulting in higher risk of injury.

Every sport requires different disciplines, skills, and overall team dynamics.  When young athletes abandon the opportunity to play multiple sports it affects every domain of their growth and development.  Multi-sport athletes enhance motor skills, physical coordination, perceptual abilities, and valuable life lessons.  Youth sports help create relationships and strong bonds amongst teammates that go far beyond the athletic field or arena.  Parents and coaches should be encouraged to create as many options for their child to grow and prosper.  “Throwing all your eggs in one basket” at too early of an age often leads to a sense of failure, stress, and pressure.



3 responses

14 09 2009

All too often you see this and it’s really quite sad. I know of a few of my friends’ friends kids who are pushed very hard to be very good at a particular sport for each of them. Personally it looks like it makes the life of the parents hellish from running around like crazy trying to get Jimmy to baseball Johnny to basketball and Timmy to soccer. They’re killing the fun part of life, being a kid!

14 09 2009

I totally agree with you Angioplasty, it is very very sad1 I can remember some very talented athletes that I played with who got so burnt out, they just up and quit. If their parents/coaches weren’t as hard on them, who knows they could still be playing professionally. I hate to see the pressure these young athletes endure when it should be about developing skills and having fun!

15 04 2010
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