Why You Shouldn’t Specialize In One Sport Too Soon

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Before I get to the meat and potatoes of today’s post I first wanted to thank everyone one who came out to CrossFit 714 in Anaheim, CA for mine and Dean’s workshop. We had 30 trainers and coaches from all over the Western portion of the country attend (even from Utah and Hawaii) and I think it was a massive success. I mean, no one asked for a refund or screamed “YOU HATE DIPS AND KIPPING PULL-UPS!?!?!? YOU’RE RUINING MY LIFE TONY GENTILCORE!!!”

So win-win.

And let me just say that the traffic in LA is NO JOKE! I read about how much of a nightmare it is and how it’s the worst thing ever, and honestly, having lived in Boston for eight years – where traffic isn’t exactly a cake walk – I always thought to myself “how bad can it really be?”

On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being “Traffic? What traffic? We’ll be there in ten minutes!” and 10 being “I’d rather walk on broken glass.” traffic in LA is the equivalent of Graham’s Number in sucktitude.

I made it back, I had a day to recover and catch up on some sleep, and now it’s back to business as usual.

I’m about five minutes away from heading out to the facility, but I wanted to share an article I had published on Stack.com recently.

It deals with a topic we have to teeter-totter with a lot at Cressey Sports Performance and it’s also a question I receive often in various places I speak:

Should a young athlete specialize in one sport, and if so, how early?

Truth be told: I’m not a fan of athlete’s specializing before a certain age. I feel it causes more harm than good and handicaps more athletes than it helps from developing their full spectrum of athleticism.

Too, nothing makes me cringe more – outside of maybe a botched rendition of the National Anthem – than when I ask a 13 year old kid what sports (s)he plays and their response is “x sport” and nothing else.

Adding to that point, we’ve also had parents with children as young as 7-8 years old contact us for our services, and while it’s always a compliment, we always tactfully say no.

As Mike Boyle has stated in the past, “your kid doesn’t need a strength coach, he needs a bike.”

Nevertheless I had a few more things to say on the topic and I hope you take a few minutes to check it out as I feel it’s a very important message.

–> Why You Shouldn’t Specialize In One Sport Too Soon <–

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  • My first thought after reading this: convincing a child to diversify into other sports could be a difficult task. In my experience, most kids tend to get started in a specific sport based on friends or family also participating, or seeing professionals on TV (typically because friends of family are watching) – it’s a decision made mostly because of social influence.

    I’m all for educating kids (or people of all ages) on the wide variety of sports out there, but I think there may be some difficulty overcoming the clique like attachment some athletes have. Kids like being identified as a baseball player, or a hockey player… a kids who plays every sport may lose that vanity.

    • TonyGentilcore

      So, who’s stopping a parent from diversifying their child’s sport resume? There’s no denying that kids are more interested in texting and video games nowadays and telling them to “go outside” is more of a challenge; but so what?

      If a kid only identifies as “being a baseball player,” and he loses some sense of vanity for playing other sports what does that say about how they’re brought up?

      Is it a parenting thing?

      I’m not about forcing a kid to play something he or she doesn’t want to play; but since when do kids make the decisions on everything? Seems a little on the side of “every kid should win a trophy” mentality.

      Not trying to be a jerk here. But are you insinuating that they should only play one sport because they’ll only be successful in one sport?

      • Not at all. I’m simply expressing that the social component could be the scariest part for kids, especially those in their teens. I’m all for pushing them outside their comfort zone for the purpose of self-improvement of any kind, and encourage parents to enroll their children into as many sports as they can handle at a young age.

  • Theresa

    “Your kid needs a bike” . Yes, this is what more parents need to hear. I grew up doing every sport imaginable and played varsity in 3 sports not because I was a tremendous talent, (though I can skip) because my school was small. Then I went on to have two boys and they also tried everything. One of them is a good athlete but never played high school sports other than golf because everyone else had already specialized, coaches have favorites, and he was up against more than 100 other boys. He’s been pretty successful at golf and has never been injured.
    As per Jamie’s comment, kids don’t specialize because of vanity, their parents do and often time, coaches are also to blame. “You can’t play for me unless you play travel ball.” AYSO out the window because all the kids joined travel teams by 10.

    • TonyGentilcore

      I agree – parents and coaches are more to blame for the “vanity” comment than anything else.

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