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  • rebeccachidley

"Is Early Specialisation in Sports Worth It? 6 Factors to Consider"

We are now aware of the many positives for young people who get involved in sport environments. From boosts in physical health, to enhanced self-esteem and building life and social skills the benefits are clear. However, the shift from sport as fun and playful to highly structured and organised is also having an impact and means that young people are facing different challenges in recent years.

What is early specialisation?

Early specialisation in sport is typically characterised by a combination of intensive, year-round training in a specific sport, excluding other activities, from an early age.

1 - Laying foundations for life - Values, attitudes, beliefs and habits are all moulded during our younger years. It is during this phase that the mindset individuals begins to be shaped. What are you trying to build for your child and how does early specialisation help or hinder this?

2 - Number of practice hours - There is no doubt that practice is a vital ingredient of sporting success. This has led many to conclude that the athlete with an earlier start has the greatest chance of success. What have you noticed when your child does more or less hours of training or practice in one sport?

3 - The benefits of variety - Initial diversification, followed by later specialisation, can give individuals the opportunity to develop a range of physical, cognitive, psychological and social skills that act as a foundation for sustained engagement in sports. It also tends to be more enjoyable and motivating. Do you notice differences in your child when they have one focus in comparison to multiple interests?

4 - Talent development - There is no reliable method! Talent development is inherently exclusionary and any process that begins during childhood faces countless potential psychological, social and economic barriers, not to mention sheer bad luck. How likely is it that your child will progress from early selection to later 'elite' performance?

5 - Social benefits of sport - While childhood and youth sport can be excellent contexts for the development of friendships and new social networks, early specialisation can stifle such developments and lead to social isolation. How well does your child cope with meeting new people and starting new groups?

6 - Fun and enjoyment as a priority - If we want children to engage in sport for longer it needs to be fun and enjoyable and not just focused on performance and/or results. Is you child having fun and enjoying their respective sport(s)?

There is reason to question the intuitive appeal of early specialisation as a prerequisite for a successful sports career.

Take some time to reflect on the points above in relation to your child's sport journey and what is best for them.


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