By Jordan D.
It is every parents dream to see their child excel at a sport at a high level. Many parents tend to live vicariously through their child, which may cause them to push their child to obtain a scholarship or beat the odds and become a professional. There can be detrimental effects when it comes to youth specializing in sport at a young age. Not giving youth the chance to be exposed to different sports can have an effect on youth development. The requirements of youth to become successful in competitive sports can be very high and it is creating more pressure for young athletes to train at higher intensities. Allowing youth to attempt a variety of sports will enable them to discover sports that they enjoy. This will also give youth a chance to develop a different set of motor skills (AMSSM, 2013).
When youth specialize in one sport, overuse injuries can be a cause due to all the vigorous training. Specializing in a single sport accounts for 50% of overuse injuries according to pediatric orthopedic specialists (Changing the Game Project, 2014). A study by Dr. Neeru Jayanthi, an orthopedist at Loyola University, followed 1,200 young athletes; he found that children who specialize have a 70 to 93 percent greater chance of overuse injuries than children who don’t. This is not surprising as it is apparent that a great amount of training is put into a competitive sport. Knowing this, I think it is a good idea to have children take part in a variety of different activities or sports that may not be competitive. Giving your child the chance to be exposed to different sports and activities they will give them the chance to build their social skills and interact with their peers. They may also be missing out on positive influences from coaches of different sports.
Specialization can also be seen as a cause for burnout among young athletes. Burnout can lead to physical and mental fatigue (Gould & Carson, 2004). This can cause youth to drop out of sports due to stress and loss of the fun aspect of the sport. When I was a kid, one of the main reasons I participated in sports was because I was having fun and enjoyed them. Pressure from parents for their child to succeed in a single sport can be very stressful for the child as well. It can be difficult establishing your child’s talent at a young age; some athletes may excel at a young age but they may not perfect the skills to become an elite athlete (Schmidt & Wrisberg, 2000). Parents cannot predict exactly how their child will develop, so limiting them to a single sport impedes their physical realization in another sport that might be their calling. Only 25% of kids who are “standouts” in elementary school go on to be “standouts” later in their athletic career (Gould & Carson, 2004). Parents need to be aware of this when spectating at their child’s sports events.
Parents want to see their child succeed and it is often the goal of many parents to see their child become a professional athlete. Allowing your child to be exposed to different sports and activities will have positive affects on their development. A child is going to be more intrigued by something that he/she enjoys doing and does not feel pressured to succeed in. I feel that parents need to put their dreams aside and let their child figure out what sport they like or are good at independently.
Schmidt, R. A., & Wrisberg, C. A. (2000). Motor Learning and Performance: A Problem-Based Learning Approach (2nd ed). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Gould, D., & Carson, S. (2004). Myths surrounding the role of youth sports in developing Olympic champions. Youth Studies Australia, 23, 19-26.
American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. (2013). Effectiveness of early sport specialization limited in most sports, sport diversification may be better approach at young ages. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130423172601.htm
Changing the Game Project. (2014), Is it wise to specialize? Retrieved from http://changingthegameproject.com/is-it-wise-to-specialize/