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With the remarkable amount of resources being invested into the sporting world, the popularity of youth talent identification programs has increased sevenfold. In Australia, these elite youth programs are popular in the AFL, tennis and basketball settings. These programs have the long-term aim of developing elite athletes from an early age, thus guiding them along a specific sporting journey. Because of this, many parents are unsure whether their child should focus on a specific sport, or continue to diversify.
Cote (et al. 2009) has previously outlined key concepts of athletic development, concluding:
1) Playing different sports in the younger age groups does not effect one’s potential for elite sport participation after puberty.
2) Variety in sporting involvement at a younger age is linked to a longer sporting career and a decreased likelihood of drop out.
3) Exposure to a range of sports positively influences youth development in the areas of relationship formation, behavioural tendencies and an understanding of healthy habits.
4) Injuries may be more likely if a high-school student specialises in one particular sport (McGuine, et al. 2017), or this increase in injury rate could be related to an increased volume and intensity (Di Fiori, et al. 2014).
With the evidence considered, your child will benefit from participating across a range of sports at an early age, which prevents injury and improves participation and well-being, without impacting their chances of reaching an elite level once they mature.
Côté, J., Lidor, R., & Hackfort, D. (2009). ISSP position stand: To sample or to specialize? Seven postulates about youth sport activities that lead to continued participation and elite performance. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 7(1), 7-17.
DiFiori, J. P., Benjamin, H. J., Brenner, J. S., Gregory, A., Jayanthi, N., Landry, G. L., & Luke, A. (2014). Overuse injuries and burnout in youth sports: a position statement from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. Br J Sports Med, 48(4), 287-288.
McGuine, T. A., Post, E. G., Hetzel, S. J., Brooks, M. A., Trigsted, S., & Bell, D. R. (2017). A Prospective Study on the Effect of Sport Specialization on Lower Extremity Injury Rates in High School Athletes. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 0363546517710213.