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
Sports Forum Podcast
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. We discuss his experience at the MLB game at Field of Dreams; his thoughts on the appeal of the Field of Dreams, and baseball in general.
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Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
Episode #11 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Latest on Brain Trauma, Concussions and CTE with Dr. Chris Nowinski – Nowinski is CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation.
Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO.
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
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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