Early sports specialization has become increasingly more popular, with 17% and 41% of youth athletes are now considered ‘highly specialized’ in sports.
Much of this has been driven by parents and coaches hoping to help their kid get ahead and allow them to make varsity or get a scholarship for college. This has been amplified by many High School athletes making their college commitments when they are freshman or Sophomores. Although the data suggest that highly specialized youth athletes make up slightly more of the the scholarship athletes in the NCAA, most kids who are specializing aren’t getting scholarships. Most Elite high level athletes have also acknowledged the importance of playing multiple sports as a kid. My push for delaying sports specialization becomes amplified when we look at the factors outside of performance. Highly Specialized youth athletes are more likely to become injured, experience depression and burnout. The sad truth is most everyone who “makes it”, made it because they were a great athlete and not because they specialized when they were 12 instead of 16. Allow the kids to enjoy multiple sports and develop as a holistic athlete.