Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity

To Specialize or not to Specialize, that is the Question

1 Comment

Early sport specialization is a concept that presents coaches, athletes, parents, sport administrators, and health professionals with a myriad of problems.

Early sport specialization can be defined as:

  • “Children who limits participation to a single sport on a year-round basis with a deliberate focus on training and development in that sport” (Wiersma, 2000);
  • “All athletes limiting their athletic participation to one sport on which they practice, train, and compete throughout the entire year” (Hill, 1993);

Research indicates that:

  • 98% of young athletes will never reach the elite level status;
  • Due to physical, emotional, cognitive, and psychological factors natural talent does not transition from youth to adult performance;
  • 70% of children are dropping out of organized sport by age 13;
  • There is a 32-46% increase rate of athletic injuries;

There is a wealth of evidence that supports the concept of early sport specialization. It is essential that coaches, athletes, parents, sport administrators, and health professionals, consider the adverse effects. The risks have been characterized as harmful to youth. Fostering positive youth sport experiences and focusing on the fundamentals will widely benefit our future generation!

  1. As BRSS Student about to graduate, how do you educate stakeholders in the sport industry about the downsides of early sport specialization?
  2. Have you experienced burnout?

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Author: hanv2015

Happy Healthy Smiling Gremlin

One thought on “To Specialize or not to Specialize, that is the Question

  1. To answer the first question- I find that it is difficult to actually explain to ultra-competitive parents that there are significant downsides to having children specialize in a sport too early; look at the majority of players who have made it to the NHL, almost all of them started playing timbits (or equivalent) hockey starting at 3 or 4 years old and never stopped. To truly master a sport requires outlandish amounts of practice and support- but then look at the numbers of children WHO ACTUALLY MAKE IT to that pro level. Less than 1% of junior hockey players will play professionally let along in the NHL, so as an RSS professional I see it as my mission to educate those ultra competitive parents that while it is good to support your child’s dreams, the goal of sport should be for social and physical benefits, and the best way to do that is by allowing the child to try a multitude of sports and ultimately let them decide on which one is the most enjoyable for them. This will decrease burnout rates and shift the pressure gauge on the child from- high pressure to succeed and perform, to having fun, making friends and learning new activities and become more physically literate.


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