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Specialising Too Early Can Limit Your Teen's Sporting Success

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Specialising Too Early Can Limit Your Teen's Sporting Success

Early sport specialisation is defined by year-round intensive training of a singular sport at the exclusion of all other sports to facilitate the training and playing demands of their given sport.

We want to encourage kids to be playing sports and keeping active to encourage a healthy lifestyle. However, when they become too singular focused on the one sport, they place them self in a compromised position where they are more likely to experience overtraining, overuse injuries and loss of interest in their sport.

Here are some interesting statistics:

  • Up to 54% of injuries in paediatric sports medicine are related to overuse;
  • Young athletes who are highly specialised, are 36% more likely to experience a serious overuse injury compared to those who are not;
  • In 2015, 322 athletes were invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, of those 322, 87% were multi-sport athletes, while only 13% specialised in the sport of football.

The issue of early specialisation has increased tremendously over the past few years, with more and more pressure being placed on young kids to excel and be "professionals" in their sports from such a young age. With the introduction of youth academies and elite junior programs, kids are now forced to do so much more training than they have ever done before. We see our favourite athletes succeeding and we want to be there tomorrow and think the best way to get there is by training as much as possible.

But many of the best athletes of all time were dual sport athletes, and played numerous sports growing up. Lebron James was an all state in both basketball and football during his high school years, Michael Jordan was able to play both professional baseball and basketball, while Christian Petracca and Scott Pendlebury both had the option to pursue a career in professional basketball or AFL coming out of high school.

So, what does this tell us?

These anedotal stories as well as a growing amount of evidence suggest that late specialisation (15-16 years old) may lead to a greater chance of athletic success. This late specialisation allows for children to develop and master key movement patterns from a variety of sports and allows them to discover new talents and skills.

To best protect and nurture our athletes as coaches, parents, and practitioners, it is our role to allow them to develop through other interests and sports. As well as limiting the amount of time spent training specifies and repetitive movements during their skeletal development years, to give our athletes the best chance of remaining injury free and achieving overall athletic success.

Inner Athlete coaches are Youth Fitness Specialists. Download our free e-book 'A Parent's Guide to the 3 Biggest Challenges Facing Youth Athletes Today.

Matt Hucul
Junior Strength Coach
Inner Athlete

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