I’ve written about this topic once or twice before, but considering how important it is to a child’s development, I’ll gladly throw it in again.
Growing up 20 years, we never thought about the idea of only playing one sport. We played basketball, baseball, kickball, football, soccer (well, some played soccer…..), pretty much anything imaginable. Even in high school, we had very few athletes who only played one sport. Nowadays, parents start to specialize their kids in elementary school. If the child is taller than most kids by 3rd grade, all they play is basketball, if they can throw hard by 5th grade, suddenly they are training like a professional pitcher. Heck, in some parts of the country, it’s popular to get your kids tested to see if they contain a certain gene match that has been linked to speed ( the gene is ACTN3 in case you were wondering…..seriously, read about it HERE). It seems that the more professional athletes get paid, the earlier we want to pin our kids to one sport.
THIS article covers a report written by the USOC (United States Olympic Committee). In the report, the USOC surveyed 2,000 Olympic athletes. The results pretty interesting and gave a glimpse into how an Olympic athlete developed their skills and a bit about why they decided to pursue their sport. For instance, the majority of the respondents said they decided to pursue elite levels of performance due to “intrinsic love of activity” and love of the sport. The most interesting part was the results of the average number of sports played through certain time periods of their athletic career. Here are the results exactly:
Age U10 – 3.11
Age 10-14 – 2.99
Age 15-18 – 2.2
Age 19-22 – 1.27
Age 22-older – 1.31
So the average number of sports played through middle school was 2.99 and the average through high school was 2.2!!
Now, I’m not saying that every kid who is only playing one sport is trying to specialize. Some kids only like to play one sport, and that’s fine. But if your child as college or pro aspirations (I think we all wanted to be professional sports players at some point in our childhood), don’t send them to a pitching coach when they’re 8 years old, or a shooting coach when they’re 11. You want to help them become a better ATHLETE?!? Put them in gymnastics, not much better for learning how to control your body, or higher a strength coach to teach them body control fundamentals, or just let them go outside and PLAY!!
This subject continues to pop up, so I’ll continue to try and nail it down.