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 #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
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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