There is a 60’s song by the Lovin Spoonful called, “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind” and it has a real application when it comes to Youth Sports. At an early age, many times children are good athletes. They can play it all and become good at many sports. But there comes a dreadful day that some overzealous coach tells them they need to concentrate on one sport. The coach talks about how good the child is and with help the kid can become a superstar. However, to do that they must spend all their sports time on one sport. The one the coach is involved with. He is advocating specialization. Drop the other sports and just spend all your hard earn time on one sport.
Look at the trends in the last fifteen to twenty years and children and their parents are being told they must specialize at earlier ages all the time. They want your child to become elite, part of the select, a member of the traveling squad that goes to places that host the best athletes at the sport with the top notch facilities in the area.
Let’s examine some facts about this trend towards specialization. Starting your child earlier and taking their free time for more and more practices and games is more about the parent wanting to win at all costs than actually looking after the best interests of the child. Afterall, the parents are looking for an edge in this society that responds with love, money and devotion to our best athletes. The edge is also a chance to gain some notoriety which may transform into some collegiate looks and the possibility a college scholarship with chances for a professional career.
They believe the specialization is the best way to get there. Parents are concerned that if their child doesn’t put in the time (the 10,000 hour rule by Malcolm Gladwell) they will not reach the success level need for them to get the good stuff. It is an attitude of playing year round, being on a select team, attending the best and usually most expensive camps is the only map for success. It is more, more and more that the parents ask of their child.
It’s called Competitive Survival. Parents are afraid their child will get behind. Parents assume that sports are like academics; that because a child who falls behind academically, even in the early grades, may never catch up – a fear that prompts more and more parents to push their children in school, even in the early grades. Many times the parents actually know this is not going to be good for the welfare of the child but things have spiraled out of control. The costs are adding up and it isn’t prudent to give it up now. So the continue. They dive deeper into youth sports trap.
As we look at this trend, this idea of submerging your child into one sport, we must also assess the harm that may being done to the children with specialization. The earlier you start the more it interferes with the child’s development and a stress becomes associated with being involved too much. It also lends itself to disappointment. The child see how important it is to his/her parents and if things go badly they can develop personal issues and stress over it. The child now has the potential to become an elitist and believes that is the best way to go and will look for these types of environments throughout their later years.
The more you play the more injuries happen from overuse. It also doesn’t tend to allow other muscles to to be developed properly as they could with a multi-sport child. Burnout can become an issue and they may want to quit but again they are concerned how it will affect their parents.
What can be done. Simple, don’t do it. Say NO to the idea of specialization. It may be a difficult thing to do but it may be in the best interest of your child. You could be helping them in the long run. Just say no!