• Sumo

By Ken Reed

According to Oliver Luck and Brian Hainline, a couple NCAA executives, the way this country develops young athletes is deeply flawed. In fact, they call it “broken.”

Luck and Hainline cite single sport specialization — often pre-puberty — as one youth sports trend in the United States that is particularly troubling.

In an op-ed, Luck and Hainline wrote the following:

One common myth that often leads to early sport specialization is the misconception that having a single sport to focus on will lead to opportunities to participate in elite levels of competition beyond the high school level. But this myth is not supported by the facts. Indeed, the vast majority of Olympic athletes played multiple sports as children. There are no data to support that early specialization leads to a greater likelihood of a college scholarship or a career as a professional athlete.

Not only is there a lack of scientific evidence that suggests single sport specialization for youth athletes is beneficial, there actually is a growing mound of evidence that shows specializing in one sport has negative ramifications. Researchers have found that sports specialization for young athletes leads to increased rates of overuse injury, burnout and high drop out rates.

Multiple sports participation at the youth level is the key to improving long-term athletic performance. Perhaps more importantly, from a national health perspective, multi-sport participation at the pre-teen and teen levels increases the chances of a person staying physically active for a lifetime. It also increases exercise and sports participation enjoyment levels. And that translates to a happier and healthier citizenry.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans

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