Recent debates regarding Single Sport Specialization have made parents, coaches, and researchers rethink the way they approach player development. John O’Sullivan’s article about the dangers of single sport specialization shows a few of the drawbacks of specializing at an early age.
I wish they would explain a little more clearly (or maybe it’s not as clear to me) that it’s bad when the kids are forced to specialize and made to train for long extended periods, too many times per week. They should explain the difference between “free play” and “structured training” and how each one impacts players.
It is true that many parents take it to the extreme and want a child to eat, sleep, and breathe a single sport. I agree that this can be detrimental to any child. However when a child CHOOSES a sport and WANTS to eat, sleep, and breath a single sport, there is no need to make them play other sports. However there is a need to monitor the amount of “structured” training and “official” games. I don’t think it is necessary to tell them that they can’t juggle the ball on their own time, or watch the sport on TV, or kick the ball around in the back yard for fear of “overuse” or injury. What many believe is that we are so concerned about making good players, that we overtrain them to the point of injury or quitting.
I do believe that too much “structured training” can be detrimental, especially for those kids that are being made to practice. I agree with the author that this will cause injuries and abandonment of the game after they become adults, among other drawbacks. It’s important to remember that we have to let kids be kids, let them tell you what sport THEY want to play, how much THEY want to train, and where THEY want to play. Take a look at the “Interviews with Players” tab and see what players who have played at elite levels are saying about how they made it to college. Listen to your kids, after all it should be up to them where, when, and with who they want to play. Talk to your coach and see how much training the kids are getting, how long, and how much “free play” they get. The younger the child, the more “free play” they should get. I will write later about how “Free Play” can improve and nurture creativity for players.