Early Specialization in Sports


We’ve all seen it or been through it ourselves. Maybe you listen to other parents talk about it, or maybe you do it yourself. Many kids these days have gotten away from understanding how to enjoy the endeavor of sports and sportsmanship and are being taught at an early, early age that winning is EVERYTHING! Well, I hate to be the one to tell you, but 9 times out of 10 those kids will get burnt out and peak before high school all because there parents want them to be the next Tiger Woods. I’m here to tell you, don’t do it.


What is early specialization anyway? Let’s take the case of Tiger Woods. From the time Tiger could stand on his own 2 feet, his father, Earl Woods, had him playing golf. Even when he was a baby, Earl would have Tiger sit and watch him put in there garage. Tiger played golf, and only golf, all through grade school, middle school, high school. Yes, Tiger is a GREAT golfer (or was anyway….ouch!), but understand this, for every Tiger Woods that

played one sport their whole lives and excelled at it there are thousands of other kids that tried the same exact thing and failed. What Superstars played multiple sports you ask? How about Lebron James. His first love was football, which he played through his junior year. New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham played basketball for the Miami Hurricanes. Bo Jackson was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers first overall but decided to play baseball for the Kansas City Royals. I can keep going. Why is early specialization bad? Well, as far as physical development goes, early specialization has proven to slow development rather than speed it up. But what about Tiger? It’s called genetics. High levels of repetitive movement can lead to overuse which brings injuries and fatigue. Outside of that there are psychological and sociological reasons. Kids want to be kids. They want to run, jump, throw, swing, tackle and enjoy doing it. Once it becomes a job it’s no fun.


So when is specialization OK? How about college. If you can play 2 sports in college, go for it. Understand that one sport feeds another. While I was playing football in college, once a week our conditioning during the offseason would be basketball. The coaches understood that those skills acquired through basketball could be translated into abilities on the football field. In high school and want to be a better quarterback? Sure, go to camps, have a QB coach, but play other sports.


Have questions or comments? Find all of my contact information on the Scarlato Strength & Conditioning contact page or leave a comment below. Thanks for reading and I hope everybody has a great weekend!

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