Early Sport Specialization
This is when a child only plays one sport year-round. If a child has success in a particular sport, parents or coaches may think it is best for the child to focus on just one sport year round so they can achieve goals of high school success, a college athletic scholarship, or even dreams of being a professional. Worrying about long-term future goals can be harmful to the child in the present. Studies show that children play sports because it is fun. Studies also show increased injuries in children who specialize in one sport early in their development compared to those who do not. The focus should be on the current development of the child and not the future plans of the adults around the child.
At a young age, our youth should be sampling many sports to see what they enjoy and to develop a variety of physical skills and movements. This is developmentally appropriate. When a child plays multiple sports they get to learn from different coaches, communicate with different teammates, and learn different skills. When children participate in sport specialization they lose that opportunity by only playing a single sport and sometimes only learning from a single coach. By choosing to play just one sport the child will be making the same movements year round. Over time these repeated movements can wear on a young developing body and cause injury. Injuries, especially repeat injuries can be very disappointing for a young athlete and could lead to the child losing interest and quitting the sport altogether.
Athletic Burnout is when a child becomes physically and/or emotionally exhausted from the constant demands from sports. The burdens from sport can build up from many factors that impact the child. Factors that can cause a child to be burned out could be increased expectations, constant athletic schedule, behaviors or decisions by parents and coaches, sport specialization, injuries, social impacts, and simply a loss of enjoyment. This is why the focus needs to always remain on the positive development and enjoyment of the child
Loss of Enjoyment
Simply, kids get into sports because it is fun, they stay in sports because it is fun, and they get out of sports when they are no longer having fun. It is the job of the parents and the coaches to closely observe the child’s development and experience within sports and physical activity. Parents and coaches should have united goals to get the child active, developed physically, socially, and emotionally, and to ensure they are finding enjoyment in what they do. Sports should serve the child and not the other way around.