Specialization on one sport at an early age is far more detrimental than beneficial!
One of the biggest debates in today’s youth sports culture is whether athletes are best to specialize in one sport or try their hands at multiple sports. Advocates of single sports specialization point to the “necessity” of year-round skill development of the same sport to give athletes a chance at mastering that sport.
However, extensive practice in one sport does not guarantee a professional career. The outcomes of young athletes only participating and focusing on one sport are far more detrimental than beneficial. Single-sports athletes face physical, psychological and social implications. These outcomes include:
Increased Risk of Burnout: Kids get bored when they have to do the same thing over and over again. Repetition of the same activity coupled with the pressure by adults to succeed significantly increases the chances of burnout.
Overuse Injuries: Using the same muscles repeatedly for a long time especially for developing bodies can lead to serious injury.
Increased Psychological Stress: Young athletes are often pressured by their parents and coaches to succeed at their one sport. This added pressure causes stress that many young children do not know how to cope with.
Studies have also shown that single sports athletes are prone to decreased motivation along with a lack of enjoyment for the sport. Playing only one sport can also lead to higher rates of adult physical inactivity due to lack of exposure to different activities.
On the other hand, diversifying a young child’s sports activities provides them with a multitude of positive outcomes.
Athletes that play various sports acquire more skills, techniques, and attributes that cannot be obtained through the participation in only sport. For example, sports such as baseball, lacrosse, and hockey require much physical activity as well as chess-like thinking and hand-eye coordination. While Track and Field emphasize speed, endurance, dedication, and sacrifice. Athletes that play a combination of sports gather different skill sets from each sport, leading to being a well-rounded athlete.
Other multi-sport benefits include:
Overall motor and athletic development
Longer playing careers
Smarter and more creative players
Better decision makers