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.
"Don't worry son, it's your parent's fault that you can't run track. They gave you bad genes. That's why you failed the genetic test."
Genetic Testing of Athletes
It’s hard to believe, but one day this could be the reality. Little Johnny (or Susie) could be told that they can no longer play a sport because ‘they don’t have the right genes for it.” In case you haven’t heard about it, there are now companies out there who will provide genetic testing of kids for athletic purposes. The companies claim that they are trying to help the parents so that their kids can be steered to sports that they are the most suited for. I’ve got some problems with this whole concept.
5 Reasons Genetic Testing of Athletes Is Wrong
Specialization – Don’t we have enough of an issue with kids specializing in one sport too early? Isn’t this going to make things that much worse? In case you aren’t aware of my views of focusing on only one sport, you can read my thoughts here. There are a lot more athletic and medical personnel who share my viewpoint due to burnout issues and physical wear and tear on the bodies of young athletes. The testing companies say that it will save you money because you won’t put your child in something that they won’t be that good at. Of course they’re going to say that – they are selling their product.
Goes Against What Sports Teach – You remember all of the things that sports teach a kid – hard work, dedication, perseverance, teamwork, not giving up, etc. Guess what? Genetic testing robs your kid of the chance to learn many of those basic things. If they are put into something that will always come easier to them than some other sports, then how will they learn to do something when it is difficult for them? Additionally, if you already know that you have the necessary tools, what’s the motivation to work hard to develop them further?As for teamwork, one of the issues with teams is that every person is not exactly the same. You have to learn to work together and realize your strengths and weaknesses. That might be hard to do in a sport where all of the athletes have the same gifts.
Injury Information – One of the factors behind genetic testing is that it could possibly identify players who are at risk for certain injuries. Maybe there is some benefit to this in certain cases. However, most of the parents who most want the testing done on their kids are focused on one thing only – a college scholarship!! Guess what parents? As soon as your future college coach finds out that you are at greater risk for certain injuries, oops, there goes the scholarship down the drain. Years ago I was involved in a discussion about female ACL tears and femoral notch width as a factor. The discussion eventually turned to the a question of what would happen if college coaches ever wanted to know this information about potential signees. Ethics dilemma? You bet!
Do We Need A Test? – I understand that the test gives exact details about what a kid is capable of. Do we really need a test for this? If you want to know if a kid is fast, have him race other kids. If you want to know if he’s a good jumper, test his vertical jump. As a young kid, training won’t have had much of an effect yet. Just compare your kid to other kids and see how they perform. If they are naturally fast, or strong, or whatever else, then you probably know enough.
Let The Athletes Be
Obviously somebody thinks that this is a good idea (probably the people making money off of the tests). I’m all for using technology to help coaches and athletes. I just think that genetic testing goes too far. I like the excitement of seeing someone develop and use their God given ability, regardless of what that is.