As youth sports become progressively more competitive, it is becoming more and more common for young athletes to spend as many hours as they can honing their skills in the one sport that they show the most interest/promise in. It seems that the days of the Jackie Robinson type, well rounded athlete is on the decline. Early sport specialization involves intense and often year round training. Healthcare professionals are now discovering that this is to the detriment of the child and their development. It might seem intuitive that the more time/energy you spend playing baseball, the better baseball player you will become. However, research is actually telling us that athleticism improves MORE and severe injuries occur LESS with exposing the body to different sports and different movements.
The National Athletic Trainers Association recently released official guidelines to address this early sport specialization epidemic. Their 6 simple rules are as follows:
- Delay single sport specialization for as long as possible.
- Children should only be on one team at a time.
- Younger athletes should not participate in a single sport for more than 8 months out of the year.
- Youth athletes should not be playing in organized sports for more hours a week than their age. For example, a 10 year old should not be playing/practicing for more than 10 hours a week.
- Children should have at least two days off a week from organized training/competition.
- Young athletes should take a break from sports at the end of each season before beginning another. This will allow for physical and mental recovery.
So encourage your children to be well rounded, both mentally and physically, and get out there and try a new activity!