Recently I heard someone say something along the lines of, “That sixth-grade basketball player is ranked #1 in the country.” That got me thinking: How in the world are we ranking sixth-graders? They haven’t even gone through puberty yet!
Early sport specialization basically refers to putting a child into one sport before puberty and keeping them in that one specific sport their whole childhood and adolescent life. Parents think that if their child is focused on one sport, they have a higher chance of getting an athletic collegiate scholarship and possibly going pro at their respective sport. This is the furthest thing from the truth. Early sport specialization is actually detrimental to young children physiologically, psychologically, and fundamentally.
Children Should Learn a Variety of Sports
Children should be exposed to as many sports as possible as they grow up because this allows them to learn different skills that they might not learn if they are focused on only one sport. If a child focuses on the skills required to play baseball or tennis, that child will not master the physical literacy that every athlete should have. Physical literacy is the basic sport and movement skills required for sports that include agility, balance, coordination, and speed (Brenner, 2016).
Variety Will Help with Injury Prevention and Avoiding Burnout
Being a strength coach and personal trainer, a lot of parents ask me to train their child from as early as 10 years old because they think their child is the next LeBron James or Usain Bolt. What I have found out is that those kids typically can’t perform a simple movement like a skip or jumping jack. It actually is sad to see kids struggle with basic movements like this. Allowing kids to play sports for fun is the best way to keep them from burning out or getting seriously hurt before they reach puberty.
Let Kids Play to Have Fun
At the end of the day, we need to allow kids to be kids and play to have fun. Putting too much pressure on kids takes away from their experience and they begin to get scared of failing or not being good enough. They need to learn to fail in certain situations when it comes to athletics or they will not know how to deal with it on their own. Parents and coaches need to work together to eliminate the concept of trying to get their kid to be a professional athlete because chances are it won’t happen. Allow them to enjoy their young years without the pressure.
This blog was written by Pedro Mendez, CSCS, FMS, Health/Fitness Instructor and Strength Coach at NIFS. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.