How Young Is Too Young to Specialize in One Sport?
You probably wouldn't want to bring this up over, say, smoothies with Simone Biles, but according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, young athletes who specialize in one sport are at higher risk for injury and burnout by the time they are teens than the kids who play several sports.
Say what now?
Apparently kids' sports have changed over the last 40 years, with more kids focusing on one type of athletics at a young age. About 60 million children between the ages of 6 and 18 play organized sports in the United States each year, according to the National Council of Youth Sports, with 27 percent specializing in one sport, and about 70 percent of them dropping out by age 13.
What's behind the trend? Study author Dr. Joel Brenner points to both the pressure to perform and grown-up intervention as possible culprits. "More kids are participating in adult-led organized sports today," he explained in the report. "And sometimes the goals of the parents and coaches may be different than the young athletes. Some are aiming for college scholarships or a professional athletic career, but those opportunities are rare."
Which is why the AAP encourages children to play multiple sports, and recommends they delay specializing in a single sport until they are at least 15. They Academy also advises young athletes to take at least three months off from their sport during the year—one month at a time—in order to engage in other activities and just go out and play with their friends and have fun.
I see where they are coming from here, and I get that by being more diverse kids are more likely to enjoy exercise throughout their lives. But I gotta be honest—15 seems a little old to me. My son is 11, and after years spent dragging him around to the soccer field and the baseball diamond, he decided to give both sports a rest this year in order to focus on the one activity he truly loves—basketball. And I'm OK with that.
Pretty sure Simon Biles' parents would be, too.