Parents should resist urge to push children to just one sport
Is it right for youngsters to focus all their attention, all their training on just one sport?
Far too many children are being pushed into choosing just one sport at too young an age. From my childhood until high school and even college I was fortunate enough to play many sports. I have always believed that the physical development and training for one sport complemented another sport and simply led to better overall physical conditioning.
And I also think playing more than one sport helped me mentally. Many experts seem to agree. The Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University cites the work of several “expert panels” and concludes that it is not in the best interest of the child to specialize in a single sport and engage in year-round training prior to puberty.
Citing studies, the institute’s director, Daniel Gould, contends that most children – more than 90 percent – never reach the elite levels, so specializing in one sport will rob them of the opportunity to have multiple sport experiences and learn a variety of sport and motor skills. Research also finds that most elite athletes played multiple sports while growing up and specialized in one sport later, in their teenage years, Gould says. Playing more than one sport allows children to find the sport for which they are best suited and reduces the chance of injury as well as stress-induced burnout.
To me, burnout is a valid argument supporting critics of the “just one-sport athlete.” I can tell you from firsthand experience that when I was young I looked forward to a change in seasons, the switch from one sport to another. This way, my mind seemed to get a fresh start, practices and games didn’t appear so monotonous and I felt recharged and refreshed emotionally.
There are some intangibles I think families should realize when it comes to sports participation and their children. Engaging in a new sport or a different sport also allows your children the opportunity to meet new friends and play for other coaches. The social aspect of sports and interacting with new teammates and coaches can be so valuable to the overall development of the child.
As for parents who believe their children could be overlooked when it comes time for elite teams and scholarships, I’d tell them to take a deep breath. In this day and age of social media and youtube there’s a good chance if your child is deemed good enough, then the really bright coach or college recruiter will find him or her.
Once your child gets to the teen years, you can think about focusing on one sport. But until then, consider our approach in the summer program at The Sports Academy at Brookwood Camps. We expose children to several sports and activities in a healthy manner, while also offering short-term specialized training. We believe this is a great way to determine if a particular sport is the right fit for a child and planning for when the child should focus more of his or her attention on that sport.
–This blog is written by Jay Fiedler, former NFL and Miami Dolphins Quarterback who is the Director of the Sports Academy at Brookwood Camps. If you wish to ask Jay a question email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org