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 #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.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
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.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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