By Ken Reed
The trend toward specialization in youth sports continues unabated. This despite a lack of evidence showing specialization improves athletic performance. In fact, the limited research available in this area tips the scale the other way: Kids that specialize in a single sport at an early age have less athletic development than do their multi-sport peers.
“You rarely see someone who played only baseball all the way through go on to have a successful career in the big leagues,” says Eric Cressey, of Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, Massachusetts. Cressey believes you need to be a good athlete before you can be a good baseball player. Sports specialists suffer from a lack of athletic development, according to Cressey.
There’s another problem with sport specialization: It leads to more overuse injuries.
“We know it (specialization) leads to more injuries,” says Cressey. “The more kids play (a single sport), the more they get hurt before they turn 18.”
For example, according to a Sports Health review done in 2012, young baseball pitchers who throw more than 100 innings per year have 3.5 times more injuries than those who pitch less. Moreover, pitchers who throw more than eight months a year are five times more likely to require elbow or shoulder surgery. The results were similar for young people specializing in other sports.
Another issue with playing one sport basically year round is emotional burnout. Too many kids become burned out from the seemingly never-ending practices, personal training sessions, and games that they just quit their sport.
“I’ve always endorsed kids playing multiple sports,” says John Graham, CSCS, who operates the St. Luke’s Sports and Human Performance Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania. “It’s better for them from a physiological standpoint. The kids who play multiple sports become better athletically.”
We need more medical professionals, researchers, trainers, coaches and parents spreading the anti-specialization message.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
Listen on Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Anchor and others.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
More Episodes on Apple Podcasts; Spotify; Google Podcasts; PocketCasts; & Anchor
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon