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


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