Early specialization is killing youth sports and hindering your child from unlocking their athletic potential to their fullest. Even though there are copious amounts of information opposing early specialization your children are still being locked into sports specialization far too early.
Kids are playing for multiple travel teams, often at the exact same time, you’re spending thousands of dollars on multiple position-specific coaches, directing all resources towards a singular sport and position before you’re child even reaches their middle school graduation!
Instead of allowing your children to participate in several different sports, spread out those resources, to better build an improved athlete and human for the long term.
This message is directed towards any parent who has a son or daughter involved in sports, organized or not. We will not only dive into the physical benefits of participating in multiple sports, but the social and emotional benefits gained as well.
Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD)
Long-term athletic development (LTAD) has become a buzzing topic in the youth sports sector recently and is backed by strong guidelines to help lay out the foundation of a child’s athletic future.
This model is taken from Istavan Baylis’s “Long-Term Athlete Development” book.
Although many have this developmental concept backward and your child may be hyper-focusing in a singular sport with the hope of “long-term athletic development” in mind. While the intention may be correct, the execution is wrong and actually more detrimental.
A question I always find asking parents is that if long-term athletic development is the goal then why is it so important right now that your child is the best 11-year-old player out on the field?
I understand wanting success and expecting the best out of our kids, but if you want your child to truly develop then you need to understand that this is a process and much like any long-term investment there are rises and falls. The falls are necessary to ensure that the end goal is the best possible outcome.
In a nutshell, LTAD is looking at the larger picture of a youth athlete’s development in sport. The development, if done properly, should also include those secondary benefits mentioned earlier of emotional and social skills.
Addressing the primary element which comes to mind when playing sports the physical benefits are vastly improved when participating in multiple sports.
It is important to play multiple sports to develop physical literacy and set a foundation of physical culture for the rest of their lives.
Think of physical literacy and movement as learning a language. To master a language or even be sufficient enough to use it in fluid conversation you must grasp all the details. You need to understand grammar, the flow of conversation, slang, and everything else that comes along with it.
Developing physical literacy is similar. If a child only plays one sport then they aren’t being exposed to the thousands of other movement combinations that other sports and activities could offer. Becoming a well-rounded athlete will create a larger base to express athleticism in the preferred sport.
Creating the foundation the be active for life is often not mentioned or undervalued with the benefit of sports. Regardless of whether your child continues to participate in sport at a high level, collegiately or professionally, it is important to create a physical culture within them to live a long healthy life of physical activity after the years they no longer play organized sport.
Living a life where multiple sports are played only increases this likelihood. Long term these are the individuals we want as role models for the next generation. Helping the cycle of sports involvement continue on. Whether it be coaching at the youth level or just being supportive of their own children.
Social & Emotional
Outside of the countless physical benefits playing multiple sports will strengthen a child’s social and emotional skills.
The sporting field is an amazing environment to teach and demonstrate deeper life lessons. Yes, coaches and parents play a pivotal role in a child’s development, but the game itself has so much to offer.
When your child plays multiple sports they will get introduced to people and situations they more than likely would never get to experience without the game. Playing alongside and competing against other kids will expose them to more teamwork, problem-solving, and connection.
Placing them outside of their comfort zone in a new sport will allow them to face some adversity. Chances are your child’s favorite sport is also the sport in which they are the best. Being placed on a team where they must play a different role, and face some challenges, dare I say even lose from time to time is a tremendous thing. There is just as much to learn in a loss as there is in victory.
Fun is almost unheard of in some youth sports associations. It may occur organically due to the kids, but it isn’t a focus of those in charge. Playing multiple sports, even unorganized sports, can be a release for a child and be something they just simply do for pure enjoyment.
Now I mentioned all of the benefits that come along with this, but that doesn’t have to be a thought. Sometimes kids can just be kids and play a game for fun. I have never played on an organized soccer team before, but growing up I played soccer with the neighborhood kids down the street.
They were all older and bigger than me, and at times the rules of soccer were structured loosely as it was being upheld by 10-year-olds, but those games were some of the best things that ever happened to me.
Not only did it help with my coordination, and agility, it taught me to just roll with the game and helped me connect with kids I never would have otherwise raising my confidence.
Parents, I know you just want to do what is best for your children. The intention is there and you’re willing to sacrifice your time and finances to help better your child any fraction of a percentage possible. Taking a small step back from the singular sports focus at a young age and having them try out and play multiple sports will lead to a more well-rounded athlete and more importantly young person later in life if and when the time does come when they are ready to specialize they will be better ready.