Youth Sports – Are we specializing way too soon

As a sports performance coach and trainer, I have worked with many kids over the years. For 6 seasons I was the strength and conditioning coach for Lane Tech High School football team. I am also a Level 2 certified Youth conditioning specialist through the IYCA. In the past few years it seems that more and more kids are playing only one sport and playing almost year round. The sad part is, many of these kids only do the one sport and don’t do anything else to stay fit, active and move around. We all know now that free play does not exist that much anymore and kids are only active when they are in a structured environment practicing their sport.

 When I have a parent come to me and tell that their kid is on a travel team, be it basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey or whatever other sports there are for travel, they tell me that they want their kid to get faster, that they are slow and need to run faster, or that they are kind of faster, but need to get faster.

When I do an evaluation, and watch the kids run, skip, back pedal, I am shocked on how poorly they move. Many of the kids do not know how to skip or run with any proper form, but yet they are on a “travel team”

Parents and coaches of travel teams need to let the kids play other sports. No child needs to start specializing in a specific sport at age 9 or 10. The kids will get burned out, injured and after a while not find the game fun.  Playing soccer will make you a better baseball player; playing basketball will make you a better football player. Playing as many sports as you can will make you better in all sports.

The following quote from Mike Boyle* is funny but sadly true..

“For every Tiger Woods, there are 100,000 kids who hate their father.”

*Mike is a nationally recognized and high regarded performance coach.

Let kids play as many sports as THEY want.

Let them free play, run around and have fun.

Girls shouldn’t specialize till they are 15-16 years old and boys shouldn’t specialize till 16-17 years old.

There is a great article on the US Women’s World Cup Soccer Champions about how they all played other sports.

http://www.usatoday.com/…/abby-wambach-morgan-bri…/29665797/

I’m not sure if and when the pendulum will swing back the other way with kids specializing in one sport at an early age, but I hope it starts swinging back soon

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