For many years I have written and spoken about a trend that has had a detrimental impact on high school athletics and athletes and that is the need to specialize in one sport and basically play it 12 months a year.  In truth many boys and girls chose that path even before they enter high school.

I know times are different but growing up us kids played whatever sport was in season and we didn’t need a uniform and full schedule to do so.  By the time we got to high school many if not most of the better athletes played 2-3 sports and the best ones didn’t settle on just one until they got to college.

Today it is a very different story.  Parents and adults not only allow but often encourage young athletes to focus on the one sport that gives them the best chance to earn some form of college scholarship which has become like a brass ring.  Sometimes that decision is made before a boy or girl even reaches their teen-age years when they have not even come close to fully developing.  Today’s 12-year phenom often fades out before he/she spends a day in high school.

What we have also learned in recent years is the growing number of youth sports injuries which has led to one of the nation’s most renowned sports orthopedic surgeons blaming that in part on youngsters specializing in one sport and playing on a year-round basis.  Dr. James Andrews has said that overworking a young developing body can create problems and he also cautions about playing in multiple leagues at the same time.  Dr. Andrews says that young athletes need time off…at least two months a year to rest parts of their body.  He also believes that as many as 70% of children drop out of sports by the age of 13 because of parental, peer or coaching pressure.

There are of course exceptions as some individual sports like tennis, golf and gymnastics require a more focused effort.  Generally speaking though we need to let kids be kids.


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