Many young athletes dream of becoming the next Michael Phelps or Simone Biles and they adjust their training schedules to match those of their favorite Olympians. While adopting an Olympic training schedule would be a notable accomplishment in itself, specialization in one sport at an early age isn’t always the best method.
When children are young their parents encourage them to try every sport and see what they enjoy. Playing multiple sports is beneficial for developing cognitive and physical skills. But, many young athletes start to specialize in one sport too early. As students enter middle school and high school, they tend to drop extracurricular activities in order to focus on one sport. For parents, it’s difficult to know whether logging more hours in one sport will help their children improve faster or not. Unfortunately, logging too many hours in one sport at such a young age is more likely to lead to burnout.
“There is increased pressure to participate at a high level, to specialize in one sport early, and to play year-round, often on multiple teams,” Joel S. Brenner, lead author on the Sports Specialization and Intensive Trainingclinical report for the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness writes, “This increased emphasis on sports specialization has led to an increase in overuse injuries, overtraining, and burnout.”
The physicalbenefits of playing multiple sports throughout high school will help student athletes achieve their athletic goals later in life. While year-round training in one sport seems like a good way to guarantee a college scholarship, the reality is that most successful athletes don’t specialize until later.
“Studies have shown that Division 1 NCAA athletes are more likely to have played multiple sports in high school and that their first organized sport was different from their current one,” according to Brenner’s report.
So how can you help your student athlete avoid burnout and injury at a young age? The best way for parents, teachers, and coaches to help their students develop into strong athletes is to encourage them to try two or more athletic outlets. Even something as simple as playing a pickup game of basketball every weekend if you’re sport of choice is soccer can go a long way towards preventing burnout.
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