College Football Players Who Didn T Play In High School Youth Sports Specialization: Beware These 4 Dangers!

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Youth Sports Specialization: Beware These 4 Dangers!

“My son has wrestled since he was in grade school. Now he’s in high school and is so burned out that he doesn’t even go out for the team.”

“My neighbor plays club basketball year-round and is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in her lower leg…”

“All I’ve ever played is soccer – now that I’m not a starter I’m going to quit. I think it’s too late to start another sport now…”

Have you ever heard such statements? I’m sad to say I hear it all too often. While the media screams about the Tiger Woods and Venus and Serena Williams of the world, many people are making the mistake of starting a sport at a young age – very young – and specializing in it. The lure of college scholarships has convinced these people that specialization is the only way to excel in sports.

Before one decides to specialize, they should consider the dangers of participating in only one sport. Here are 4 dangers of specialization:

1. Overuse Injuries: Exercising the body in the same way over and over again for an entire or most of the year can lead to overuse injuries. Stress fractures, compartment syndrome, and other conditions often result from a lack of variety in an athlete’s activities. It’s good to challenge your body in different ways throughout the year to develop as an athlete. Different sports put different stresses on your body that lead to better overall athletic performance. Pediatricians across the country have urged children to participate in a variety of physical activities.

2. Burn out: Playing a sport day after day, week after week, year after year can cause burn out at a young age. Children are starting organized sports at younger and younger ages. A person who has been playing hockey since the age of four may become bored and bored with the sport by the time they reach middle or high school. Non-specialization provides relaxation and other experiences to keep primary play interesting, challenging and fun.

3. The Illusion of College Scholarships: As much as parents want their children to receive athletic scholarships, the reality is that a very small percentage of athletes achieve this goal. Scholarships should not be the driving force behind choosing to participate in just one sport. A person should not bank their health, happiness and future on a small chance of a “full ride”. The vast majority of athletes will benefit from a variety of athletic experiences even if no scholarship offers are forthcoming. In addition, most college recruiters are looking for the best all-around players. One of their first questions is often: “What else do you do besides play (insert primary sport here)?” There is evidence to support this. For example, more than 75% of the 2004 football recruiting class for the Wisconsin Badgers listed to play multiple sports in high school. Also, look at each year’s draft picks in the NFL. The majority of these players did not specialize in one sport during their high school careers. How many times have you heard this on draft day: “We’re going to draft the best overall running back available…” Playing more than one sport is the best way to become an overall athlete.

4. Not achieving your full athletic potential: Focusing on one sport will help you develop the necessary sport-specific skills, but you won’t develop other athletic skills that will transfer to your primary activities. Speed, balance, mental focus, jumping, turning are all stressed in different ways in different sports. Everything you do to become a better athlete will make you a better (insert sport here) player.

More and more research is showing that early specialization does not guarantee athletic success. We hear about the few who flourish from early specialization but what about the vast majority who don’t make it “big” in their chosen sport? How many athletes can you think of who were successful without specialization? Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson, Jim Thorpe, Babe Didrickson, John Elway and Marion Jones to name a few.

Sports should be encouraged from childhood. But, it’s best to encourage participation in a variety of athletic activities to develop athletic skills that transfer across all sports. This will reduce the risks mentioned in this article, allow young athletes to reach their full athletic potential, and who knows, maybe land that coveted college scholarship.

Copyright, Tim Kauppinen, 2005

This article is protected by copyright, 2005, Tim Kauppinen. All rights reserved.

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