The trend in youth sports is to push kids to specialize in one sport as early as 10 years old. (See ““Can Sport Specialization Cause Youth Injuries?“). The result is a huge increase in injuries like anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears and kids burning out on sports before they pick up their high school diploma.

“Kids are now doing the same sports as their heroes,” says Theodore Ganley from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in a Time magazine report. “They’re doing things year-round, in multiple teams, in multiple leagues. Now they are getting the same injuries as their heroes.”

Parents, coaches, club sports administrators, and even some kids themselves, see year-round specialization as young athletes’ ticket to a college scholarship or professional sports career.

But many college and pro coaches, along with some of our country’s top athletes, believe this is a misguided approach.

“I am so grateful that I had the chance to, and was encouraged to, play more than just soccer,” says USA soccer star Abby Wambach. “It allowed my whole body to develop, not just those muscles I use in soccer. It helps you really get to know your body and what you can do as an athlete and I think it did help me reduce my injuries.”

The percentage of youth athletes that go on to play in college on a full athletic scholarship is below one percent. The chances of making the pros is minuscule. But overzealous adults, driven by ego and greed, are negatively changing the youth sports culture. As a result, way too many young athletes, who start out playing sports for fun, end up being damaged by their youth sports experience — physically and sometimes emotionally — because of increasing pressures to specialize in a single sport.

It’s the professionalization of youth sports and it needs to stop.

Let the kids play. And let them play more than one sport.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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