How to Raise an Olympic Athlete
Studies continue to show that kids shouldn’t devote themselves to one sport.
Parents love to complain about spending yet another weekend driving their kid to travel soccer game or driving bleary-eyed to early morning ice time. Yet the accepted path for a child who’s serious about a sport is to specialize early and play year-round.
However, the experts disagree. Top coaches, sports medicine doctors, and even, surprisingly, Olympic officials stress that playing multiple sports is the best strategy. A new study of 1,200 youth athletes from Loyola University Chicago found that kids who played one sport were at least 70 percent more likely to get injured. Past research has found that kids who specialize are more likely to burn out and quit and less likely to play college sports—even though everyone assumes this the surest way to get a college scholarship. Keep in mind that only one percent of high school athletes get a free ride.
Last year, the International Olympic Committee issued this strong statement: “Empirical evidence shows that a diversity of activities in early development is an indicator of continued involvement in more intense activities later in life, elite performance and continued participation in sport.”
Sports should be fun from a young age. And summer is the perfect time to get outside and play—just for play.
Diane Debrovner is the deputy editor of Parents Magazine and the mother of two daughters—one of whom used to play three varsity sports.