By Ken Reed

Unfortunately, the trend toward specialization in youth sports continues unabated. Parents and coaches are pushing kids to focus on one sport year-round as early as 10-years-old, in hopes of a college scholarship, a pro sports career, or Olympic glory.

This despite research evidence to the contrary. Kids that play multiple sports growing up end up going further in the sport they ultimately choose than kids who specialize in a given sport as a young child.

According to a USA Today story by Martin Rogers:

“A quick survey of members of the [American women’s World Cup soccer] squad found that collectively they played at least 14 different sports competitively while growing up, as well as soccer. And significantly, all believe the other disciplines enhanced rather than hindered their soccer careers.”

American soccer legend Abby Wambach was adamant about the value of playing other sports.

“Playing basketball had a significant impact on the way I play the game of soccer,” Wambach said.

“I am a taller player in soccer, in basketball I was a power forward and I would go up and rebound the ball. So learning the timing of your jump, learning the trajectory of the ball coming off the rim, all those things play a massive role.”

Wambach also believes that taking a break from soccer kept her passion for the game strong.

“Having the ability to play basketball for a bit throughout the year gave me the chance to crave soccer, to miss it.”

Multi-sport athletes have fewer overuse injuries, less burnout, develop their overall athletic ability to a higher degree, and end up going further in their chosen sport than single-sport athletes. So, why do adults keep pushing kids to specialize at younger and younger ages?
Why indeed.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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