Specialization in AthleticsLeave a Comment
High school sports have more exposure now more than ever. This is partially due to nationally televised games such as football and basketball. There are now showcases for potential recruiters where young athletes can participate while still developing. Competition for an athletic scholarship has never been greater. Now, athletes are specializing in their sport to earn a competitive advantage and be the best at young age. Should specialization in athletics be touted, or should they continue to play multiple sports year round? Multiple researchers and college coaches state that single sport specialization is not the best practice.
This past baseball season, several big name pitchers went down with a torn UCL or Ulnar Collateral Ligament. This required the pitchers to undergo Tommy John surgery. Several baseball people wondered what would be causing all of these UCL injuries, however many doctors and sports medicine professionals suggested that it was probably due to overuse of the arm. Several of these pitchers had been playing only the sport of baseball since they were in middle school. The overuse of their arm caused the UCL to become weakened due to repetition. When athletes only participate in one sport for a long time, their bodies get used to the similar repetitions day in and day out.
So many things can lead to problems for young athletes. Outside pressure to have kids specialize in a sport early exists, and the risks usually outweigh the benefits. There is an associated risk with increased injuries when specialization in athletics at too early of an age. There can also be higher rates of burnout and lack of motivation. The absence of motivation can trickle into different parts of their lives as well. With their focus not being where it needs to be, they can get lazy. If they are not giving their best effort, coaches might start to look at them as not being top performers.
Encouraging young children to play multiple sports, or just be involved in playing outside with friends, can lead to many health related benefits. When children play more than one sport, they are working on developing different muscle groups, which can help cut down on overuse injuries. There are more than just physical benefits. By being in more than one sport, it can allow children to develop socially as well as increase their creativity. They will also have more positive self-esteem and bring that to other parts of their daily lives.
Doing what is best for your child can weigh heavily on a parent. It is important to try to involve them in as many activities as possible and give them the best possible experiences growing up. If I haven’t been convincing enough, I will leave you with this; from TrackingFootball.com, “86 players were named to the NFL Pro Bowl, 79 (91%) were multi-sport high school athletes.” And 42 of Urban Meyer’s 47 Ohio State University recruits were HS multi-sport athletes.