by Matt B.
The topic I chose research is: does early specialization in hockey affect young athletes negatively? The focus will be to see if early specialization in hockey affects young athletes health and well-being. Sport specialization is found to be a reflection of our highly developed society, as some think that children need to develop skill acquisition and enhancement at a young age to be successful. Over the past few decades there has been huge shifts from unstructured, spontaneous, fun oriented youth activities to highly structured programs and competition organized by adults. This fundamental shift has increased sport specialization in our youth sports as parents feel the need to do everything possible for their child to succeed, which leads to single sport focus at a young age. Sport specialization in youth is an issue that needs to be understood by all involved in sport including participants, teammates, coaches and parents. The potential health, psychological and sociological risks must be weighed against the benefits of sharpening of skills and the opportunity to improve level of play from amateur to professional. The purpose of my research is to find and discuss the barriers that come with youth hockey players using early specialization training and the benefits of diversifying young athletes’ sport experience.
Sport participation provides our youth with psychological and social benefits such as fair play, healthy competitiveness and achievements. Sports protects our youth, as physical activity can be used as a coping mechanism with stress and anxiety; it also can influence the way one sees him/herself, as well as improve social relationships especially in children that are competing in team sports. Children playing team sports are more likely to adapt to health-enhancing behaviours like proper nutrition and sleeping habits, as they are apart of a positive social environment. Participating in sport may also protect children from negative influences such as the abuse of drugs and delinquency.
Specialization in a single sport is a growing issue that has become increasingly popular, as there have been major shifts from unstructured, spontaneous, fun-oriented youth activities to highly structured programs and competition organized by adults. Parents believe that having their child specialize in one sport at a young age will improve skill development and their chances of making the next level; when really they should be trying to diversify their child’s sport experience. Parents and coaching must be educated of the risks that come with specializing their child in one sport. They also need to see how beneficial it is for children at a young age to participate in multiple sports as they are exposed to different movements and a variety of game situations that can improve their skill set. Sport administrators and coaches must stop modelling their programs after professional organizations; young athletes should not be training and practicing like professional athletes as holding them to these standards is damaging to their physical and mental health. Specializing young athletes in hockey can cause increased injury risk, psychological burnout and hinder the athlete’s development.
A systematic review of the psychological and social benefits of participation in sport for children and adolescents (2013). Rochelle M Eime. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3751802/
Early Specialization and year-round training is destroying youth hockey (2013). Josh Devine. Retrieved from: http://www.getsportiq.com/2013/11/early-specialization-and-year-round-training-is-destroying-youth-hockey/
What About the Single Sport Athlete (2014). John O’Sullivan. Retrieved from: http://changingthegameproject.com/what-about-the-single-sport-athlete-specialization-part-ii/
The National Post (2015). ‘One of the worst things to happen to the game’ Retrieved from: http://news.nationalpost.com/sports/nhl/one-of-the-worst-things-to-happen-to-the-game-the-toll-year-round-hockey-takes-on-young-athletes