Greg Olsen, New Jersey native and tight end for the Carolina Panthers, makes a great point as he discussing some of the negatives associated with early sport specialization. Below are a few of the quotes from his recent interview. His statements are consistent with a growing body of literature in sport and developmental psychology.
“ First of all, from a physical development, there’s a lot of research that suggests multiple sports help develop a kid.
“Being around different types of people, being around different environments, having multiple coaches. Being around different things, that’s how you learn and grow up.”
“You learn to be around people you may not agree with, be around a coach where you have to do what he says, even though you don’t like it.”
“Youth sports, growing up as a kid, it’s more than touchdowns. It’s more than free throws. It’s about growing up as a kid. I think kids are missing out on it.”
By specializing too early in sport, we tend to reduce diversity and exposure to other complementary sports. As parents, if we focus all our attention on one sport, it may have negative repercussions such as burnout, loss of motivation and potential overuse injuries. We need need to look at the whole athlete. This means paying attention to the physical, mental, and emotional well-being (an initiative consistent with the American Developmental Model and NCAA best practices).
Keep in mind that you are trying to a build solid foundation for your child. When executed properly, your athlete will have positive healthy experiences with sport that can produce a lifetime of benefits on and off the field.
Tips for Parents
1) Listen to your athlete. Make certain it is his choice to select and participate in sport.
2) Ask your athlete,”Is your sport still fun?”
3) Even if your athlete is highly motivated to specialize in one sport, it can be beneficial for them to broaden their horizon by participating in other sports. Think of it as cross training for the mind and body.
4) Propose a break and seasonal change in sport. Sometimes, time spent away from sport can reinvigorate participation.
John E. Macri, Ph.D. CC-AASP is a licensed psychologist and sport psychologist. He maintains a private practice, New Jersey Clinical & Sport Psychology in Ridgewood, NJ. He is available for individual and team consultation for youth, collegiate, and professional athletes. Do not hesitate to contact him at (201)445-3306 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.