There was a good article published recently about developing young athletes. It focuses on sports specialization in young athletes. Besides the normal reasons I have used to put down the practice of early specialization, it cites another major one. It points out that according to much of the work on Long Term Athletic Development, if a child specializes at too early of an age, they will fail to develop basic athletic skills. The lack of these skills will then limit their overall athletic potential. I believe that this is 100 % correct. I recently watched a high school sporting event. While I was at the event, I spent time analyzing the basic athletic skills of some of the athletes (running form, agility, etc). While some of the players were certainly gifted, it was obvious that many of them had never been coached on basic running form and footwork. Many of the athletes on the field were getting by purely on natural ability. I saw some of the fastest players on the field display poor form. If they had been trained to run well previously, they would have been much faster. Not only would they have made their team better, they would have been better individually. Obviously that should appeal to those who are chasing college scholarships.
So, while early sport specialization can increase the chance of injury for your child, it can also actually limit their overall athletic development. Ironically, isn’t that the opposite of what certain people keep saying? It seems that many coaches continue to convince parents and kids that playing one sport year round is the way to go. My advice when you hear statements like this – don’t believe it!!! Give your child a chance to try other sports, train to develop their overall athletic skills, and last but not least, to be a kid.