Are young athletes too focused?

March 9th, 2009  |  Published in Stumpblog  |  2 Comments

A recent column considers the question of early specialization among young athletes. It argues, in part:

The problem isn’t with trying to identify potential blue-chip athletes at an early age. It’s the pressure of one-sport specialization that eliminates too many kids’ multisport experiences and creates false expectations of superstardom in those who do get into the game. At the rate we’re going, dugouts will need to be lined with high chairs, and Gatorade will launch a brand of apple juice. Need new Under Armour? Try Baby Gap.

There are a few other problems here as well. First, one-sport specialization, especially in formative stages of physical development, can lead to imbalances and overuse injuries. Do we want kids needing rotator cuff repairs because all they did was pitch between ages 2 and 12?

Second, I just saw a study that indicates that 86% of athletes cease physical activity when they are not competing. That means people who are naturally inclined towards physical activity simply quit when they’re not under the pressure of a tournament or a coach. The most often-cited reason? Burnout.

This brings me to the third reason: single-sport specialization with the underlying push towards a pro sports career doesn’t just reflect a bad grasp of statistics; it also sucks the fun out of exercise in general. And in Stumptuous world, fun sucking is a cardinal error.


  1. anonymous says:

    March 9th, 2009at 2:16 pm(#)

    I have to say, this is probably the only reason why I am happy I didn’t become “athletic” until my late 20’s. Do I feel like I missed out on years of fun being active? Yes. On the other hand, I feel like I’m looking forward to spending the rest of my life pursuing new fun physical activities because spending time moving my body brings me so much joy on a daily basis.

  2. Gillian says:

    March 10th, 2009at 8:36 am(#)

    Interestingly enough, Sport Canada has picked up on this trend, and is beginning to provide training and literature in order to combat it. The Long-Term Athletic Development model promotes a well-rounded base for physical literacy, suggesting that children should learn a variety of skills (throwing, catching, jumping, running, swimming), to widen the range of sports and activities they can perform in.

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