By Ken Reed

The trend of sport specialization in youth sports continues unabated. Parents and coaches tell kids as young as seven and eight that they need to specialize in a single sport if they ever hope to be successful. Too many parents don’t even give kids a choice between single-sport participation and multi-sport participation. They simply tell their kids that they will play X sport year-round.

Sport specialization increases the risk of both physical injury and emotional injury (burnout). Moreover, the research shows that kids that sample multiple sports when they are young have a better chance of eventually becoming elite athletes than the early specialists.

“Among athletes who go on to become elite, early sampling across sports and delayed specialization is by far the most common path to the top,” says David Epstein, author of Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World.

Yes, there are some specialists that have gone on to successful sports careers (Tiger Woods being the most notable) but there are many more generalists, kids who played a variety of sports as youngsters, including John Elway, Roger Federer, Patrick Mahomes and Abby Wambach, who became elite athletes.

The members of the 2015 U.S. national women’s soccer team are but one example. The players on that squad participated in at least 14 different sports besides soccer. And, instead of hindering their soccer development, they all believed that playing multiple sports enhanced their soccer careers.

Epstein says that in sampling a variety of sports young athletes learn and develop a range of skills that can eventually help them in their ultimate sport of choice. While sampling, young athletes discover what they are good at, and just as importantly for long-term success, what they really like.

The research shows that when you’re passionate about something — within or outside of sports — chances are you will pursue that activity with focus and determination, enhancing your chances of success.

And you’ll have a lot more fun along the way. And having fun at something is a great predictor of not only success but happiness.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


Comments are closed.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.