Focusing on a single sport at a young age has become increasingly popular in our culture. Too often primary aged children have chosen their sport and focus on improving performance and achieving higher levels at that one sport.
There are a few reasons for this including: parents aiming to give their children a competitive edge; and increasing pressure from sporting organisations, clubs and coaches to play “year round” as a requirement for kids to reach higher levels in the sport.
While early specialisation might seem like a great idea, it is important to understand that there are several risks associated with it, and that specialising in a sport early (to the exclusion of all others) is not necessarily in the athlete’s best long term interests.
Repetitive use injuries
It is common to see early specialisation causing overuse injuries, such as stress fractures, ligament tears and muscle strains in young athletes. Injuries occur because children’s bodies are not fully developed and their muscles, bones and joints are not ready for the training load & repetitive motions required in a single sport. And sometimes young athletes are training so much, there’s not enough recovery time. Quality strength & conditioning coaching with programs specifically designed for youth are essential to reduce this injury risk.
Burnout and loss of motivation
Early specialisation can lead to burnout, both physically and mentally. When children are required to train in a single sport all year round, they often lose the joy and excitement they once had for the sport, leading to decreased motivation and increased stress. This can eventually lead to them quitting the sport entirely.
Early specialisation can also limit an athlete’s overall athletic development and potential. By focusing solely on one sport, children miss out on the opportunity to develop a variety of skills and movements that can enhance their overall athletic ability and make them more well-rounded athletes.
Choosing the right long-term strategy for your child
While early sport specialisation might seem like a quick route to success, the risks associated with it make it a poor long-term strategy for young athletes. To avoid the dangers of early sport specialisation, parents and coaches should ensure that youth specific strength & conditioning training is an integral part of their child’s training regime. And by encouraging children to participate in a variety of sports and activities, they will also give them the chance to develop a wide range of skills, and experience different types of physical and mental challenges, which will make them a more well-rounded athlete and more likely to keep playing sport for longer.
Fitter Futures specialises in youth athletic development. We help promising young athletes to reach their full potential with sport-specific and age-appropriate strength and resistance training. Book a free youth trial now.