It’s every parent’s dream…
To see their kid scoring that game-winning touchdown, earning a full-ride scholarship to a division 1 college or even signing that pro contract.
That dream drives us to make huge sacrifices for our kids.
But it also causes us to make some silly decisions – that go against science.
At Lifezone Sports Academy we see parents making a consistent mistake when pursuing sport development. We want to do our part to educate parents on some of the risks of early specialization in sports.
Research done the world around has proven that early specialization in any one sport can be detrimental to a young athlete. The research finds that:
- Early specialization retards development of major muscle groups not used on that particular sport.
- Early specialization dramatically increases the risk of player burnout. Most quit by U13 age group.
- Early specialization robs athletes of the “fun” of playing sports and piles on the pressure to perform within one sport.
- Early specialization increases the risk of injury that becomes chronic over time.
Our coaching staff (that includes US Olympic Team coaches) recommends the following.
- Variety Matters Early: From ages 2-10 have your youth athlete participate in multiple recreational sports and training environments – under the care of professional coaches.
- Don’t Rob The Joy Of Play: Let them “play”. Forget about getting them to “compete”. Getting them competing at a high level at a young age tends to be more about the parent than about the player. We find most players burning out by 12U when placed in highly competitive situations
- Recognize Talent: A small percentage of players gravitate to a sport early – and show natural aptitude quickly. Those players should be stewarded by professional coaches who know how to develop that talent safely and with excellence. This is a case for specialization early.
- Look For The Signs: When they get to middle school, look for signs that they are ready to specialize. Don’t push it. It should be obvious on the field or court. Coaches will be recommending accelerated development. Don’t lean just on your biased opinion.
- Invest In The Best: Park districts are a great place to start the journey but they are not a place where skill or talent can be stewarded. They are just a place to explore opportunities and have fun recreationally. As soon as a player shows a higher aptitude or desire for one or more sports, it is critical that a parent move that athlete into a professional coaching environment where licensed professionals can provide accelerated development with psychology, biochemistry and kinesiology in mind.
The Lifezone Sports Academy and Lifezone Foundation partners with park districts, recreational sports groups, schools and community organizations to provide families with a wide range of opportunities for athletes to try new sports, have fun competing – and eventually (in some cases) accelerate development into one or two key sports. It is this sports “eco-system” that ensures the best outcomes for players.