Author: Rosemary Buckle, M.D.
It’s a lament I hear often from parents: “There’s so much pressure to specialize these days.” From travel baseball to lacrosse teams that require some form of practice nearly 12 months a year, many kids are getting pushed into specializing in just one sport when they should be encouraged to play multiple sports. The risks of playing a single sport range from the physical to the psychological.
A brand new infographic from Mayo Clinic offers four reasons why kids should not specialize, but play multiple sports instead.
#1 It’s what top athletes do.
- 88% Division I NCAA athletes played multiple sports as kids.
#2 Fewer serious injuries
- 46% of high school injuries occurred among athletes that specialized in one sport.
- 24% of injuries occurred among multi-sport athletes.
#3 Fewer regrets
- 43% of NCAA players wish they’d spent more time in other sports growing up.
#4 Less burnout
- Studies find that high specialization at a young age carries an increased risk of stress and anxiety, social isolation, and burnout, which ultimately results in leaving the sport earlier.
Recommendations for Youth Athletes
Mayo Clinic offers the following recommendations for young athletes…
- Don’t specialize in a sport before the age of 14. Earlier specialization can result in burnout and increased risk of injury.
- Get enough sleep every night. For kids between the ages of seven and eleven, this means nine to 12 hours per night. Kids age 12 and up should get eight to ten hours per night.
- Take time off. Many organized sports leagues schedule beyond healthy limits. For example, seven- to nine-year-olds are recommended just one game and one practice per week. Twelve- to fourteen-year-olds are advised two games per week and two to four practices per week. (See the infographic below for more age-based recommendations.)
- Many parents have challenging expectations for their kids based on what they perceive others are doing.
- Talk to a youth sports expert for some perspective.
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