By Ken Reed
More and more kids — and in some cases, their parents — are finally getting fed up with the societal pressure to specialize in one sport at a young age.
These youngsters are saying they’ll specialize in college, or at least late in their high school career, but for the time being they’re having fun playing multiple sports. The February 15, 2016 issue of Golfweek was focused on young multi-sport athletes. It provided the latest evidence that the sport specialization trend might be ebbing.
Andy Zhang, 18, has signed to play golf at the University of Florida. He’s been a one-sport athlete his entire life due to pressure from his parents. He says he’s happy with where his life is at this point. However, he would advise others against taking his path.
“I would rather have a young kid start the multi-sport route,” says Zhang.
“You need to do different things when you’re young to keep your mind fresh for the game, so when you really want to golf by itself, nobody has to force you to do it. They would have a better childhood and a better mind toward the game.
“I think a lot of parents are rushing and want their kids to win at age 7 or 8. But when the kid’s 18, who’s going to remember if you won at 7? It doesn’t even matter. Nobody’s going to care.”
Travis Vick, is a highly-talented high school athlete excelling in football, baseball and golf. He has adults pulling him in all kinds of directions, telling him it’s time to specialize. Vick is saying no, I’m not ready.
“I’m still young,” says Vick. “I don’t want to have any regrets.”
Good for him. You only get the chance to be a young athlete once and to experience the excitement of playing high school sports in front of peers and community members. Plus, research is showing that multi-sport athletes have a better chance to ultimately excel in a given sport than the specialists do.
According to a Journal of Sports Sciences study, young athletes who competed in three sports at ages 11, 13 and 15 were significantly more likely to compete at an elite national level in their preferred sport than those who specialized in only one.
If that’s not reason enough to stop the sport specialization trend in youth and high school sports, consider this: According to a study conducted by Dr. Neeru Jayanthi, a leading expert on youth sports injuries, athletes ages 8 to 18 who spend more hours per week than their age playing one sport were 70% more likely to experience overuse injuries.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered and got to know well, like Muhammad Ali, as well as his relationships with fellow sports journalists like Bob Costas and Howard Cosell.
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Episode #16 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Andrew Maraniss: Outstanding Author of Books That Focus On the Intersection of Sports, History and Social Justice.
Episode #15 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Psychology with Dr. Tim Rice. We discuss the growth of sports psychology at all levels, the positive impact that a number of high profile athletes have had by opening up, and the importance of everyone involved in sports caring for the whole athlete, mind and body.
Episode #14 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball – Gary McCoy is a strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked with several Major League Baseball organizations.
Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site.
Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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