Is it Better for My Child to Specialize in One Sport or Tackle Many?
Thursday, August 17, 2023
Tiger Woods started practicing his golf swing at two years old.
Kobe Bryant shot hoops at just three years old.
Serena Williams picked up her first racket as an adorable four-year-old.
Is zeroing in on a singular sport early and sticking with it the key to athletic success?
Though tempting to eager parents and early athletes, according to science, the best playing field for young athletes stands wide and varied.
By hyper-focusing on a single sport, athletes may miss the goal altogether
Researchers that published a study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine estimate that one-third of school-aged athletes concentrate on a single sport, participating in year-round intensive trainings or playing the same sport for multiple teams. Although that statistic grabs significant attention, health professionals don’t recommend it for children’s growing bodies.
Child athletes should not train like tiny adult athletes. With still developing brains, young minds can’t maintain control over their muscles like older teens or adults. In fact, their bodies need more strength to endure the repetitive motion that comes with skilled drills and heavy schedules. So, when young ones give all their energy to one sport, they are at higher risk of overuse injuries (like stress fractures and shin splints).
In fact, variety in sports protects athletes of all ages. For example, 546 adult female athletes reported their pain levels and training regimens to a team of sports medicine doctors for a 2015 study that is on the Journal of Sport Rehabilitation website. The results revealed that single-sport athletes were four times more likely to develop knee injuries than multisport athletes.
Creating all-around champions: Cross-training and multi-sports for the win
In addition to lessening chances for injuries, playing multiple sports increases body awareness and overall athleticism (picture football players taking ballet lessons). By cross-training, athletes improve their creativity and body movements. They also gain exposure to transferable skills, different coaching styles, distinct levels of competitiveness and a wide range of experiences.
Avoiding injury and improving all-around fitness greatly benefits athletes – but don’t forget about having fun. Variety can keep sports exciting for young athletes, defending against athletic burnout and fueling a love of the game.
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