Possible benefits of early specialization

Expert sports educator John O'Sullivan shares some of the possible benefits of early specialization for children in different types of sports and activities.
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Possible benefits of early specialization

What the science shows us with regards to early specialization is it is definitely an indicator of short-term success. If your 10-year-old only plays baseball and is competing against kids who play three months or four months of baseball a year, chances are your 10-year-old is going to be better. But in sports where genetics and athleticism really will determine whether you can play at the next level, be of high school or college or to pros, it's really not until puberty that you know whether your kid is going to be really, really good. And so, sometimes, there is this temptation - well, let me give them the head start because if I can get them on the best team and get them with the best coaches, that gives them the best chance. That's okay but what happens is when we have an entire sports culture based on that, start earlier, earlier do more and more, and I can pay the money and they can't, what happens is sports what should be a great common ground for all kids becomes elitist. It becomes for only the kids who can afford to pay at a really young age and what happens is we lose tons of our best athletes to certain sports because they don't have the time or the financial means to really get in early and pay all that money. So, what I recommend is that sporting organizations create this early engagement environment, small-sided games, in-house leagues, things like that that just get as many kids playing, takes away the travel burdens, takes away the try-out burdens. Let those kids start growing and then see what happens because especially with boys, a 13-year-old boy can have a 6-year developmental age swing, which means a 13-year-old boy might look like a 10-year-old or might look like a 16-year-old, and you would never play 10-year olds against 16-year olds, but that's what happens in U13 boy soccer. So, we have to be patient. We have to let kids grow and really if we can keep as many kids involve until they're 15 or 16, then that is how we will actually identify and promote the best athletes.

Expert sports educator John O'Sullivan shares some of the possible benefits of early specialization for children in different types of sports and activities.


Expert Bio

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John O'Sullivan

Founder of Changing The Game Project

John O’Sullivan founded the Changing the Game Project in 2012 in order to help parents, coaches and youth sports organizations create a more child-centered sports experience for our young athletes. John is a former collegiate and professional player, and worked for 20 years on the youth, high school and college level as a coach and club Technical Director. He holds a USSF A License, NSCAA Advanced National Diploma, and a US Youth Soccer National License. His blog is now one of the most popular youth sports websites in the US, and he has been a featured presenter at TEDx Bend Oregon, IMG Academy, and this week at the NSCAA Convention. The Changing the Game Project provides live and online parent and coaching education workshops, webinars, and consulting services.

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