An Argument For Why A Variety of Sports Should Be Played Growing Up...
Many people believe that if someone is going to become world-class at something, especially a sport, they must specialise in it from an early age. It must become their sole focus so that they may master the movements and in turn master the sport. Is this the case, however, or is this high-level of specificity at such an early age actually harm and limit kids and adolescents…
Picture yourself only working the one job for the rest of your life (I apologise if this is your reality). Does it seem mundane... Does it seem repetitive... Does it seem like there’s not much room to grow unless you innovate and take action yourself?
When it comes to sports specificity, people are solely focused on the end goal. They are blind to the process and inevitable consequences that will appear along the way. Things such as injuries from overuse and repetition… Burnout and dropping the sport altogether… Missing out on developing well-rounded athleticism and multiple movement patterns… And also the chance to develop social situation skills and life skills
In my own life, I was blessed to play everything under the sun as a kid. I swam and played tennis from an incredibly early age and then ventured into field hockey, basketball, netball, and soccer, before moving onto cricket, baseball, and a myriad of others during my teens. And I credit all of this to allowing me to represent Newcastle in Cricket, and Newcastle + NSW Country in Baseball
And yet there is still this thought that sport-specialisation from an early age increases the chances of better performance at an older age and reaching an elite level? This phenomenal article begs to differ, however...
It found that 82% of top performers within the four major sports in the U.S all played a variety of different sports at a young age. People like Wayne Gretzky, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Tom Brady - all played a variety of sports as kids and yet still rose to the top of their chosen sport as an adolescent and teen
In fact, Kobe credits his variety of sports to some of his future success - "I’m comfortable (with basketball) footwork because I played soccer,” said Bryant. “From changing up rhythms to foot speed to being comfortable with having my right foot as my pivot foot and my left foot as my pivot foot.”
And with these being such formative years in our kids, it is important to expose them to as many different variables, movements, and environments as possible so that they can learn and grow
Taking this opportunity away from them puts them at too high a risk to not learn skills that may be necessary to them in their adolescence and beyond
This 2013 meta-analysis also found that there is no evidence that intense training and specialization before puberty are necessary to achieve elite status. And that the risks of early sports specialization include higher rates of injury, increased psychological stress, and quitting sports at a young age
And so, with that, I implore you to let your child and adolescent try/play a variety of different sports - just like you would wish for them to experience as many different thing sin life as possible