Early Specialization

Benefits of Sport Diversification

There is a huge pressure on kids and their families to choose their best sport earlier and earlier, in hopes that the extra time they dedicate to it will return to them more success, maybe even get them a college scholarship or professional payday. However, by specializing early, a young athlete misses out on the many benefits of Sport Diversification including, but not limited to: mental and physical fatigue reduction, overall athleticism, mental toughness, and injury reduction.

"For example, instead of only developing hand-eye coordination as it pertains to hitting and throwing in baseball, a child playing baseball and soccer can also develop foot-eye coordination, footwork, and running mechanics."

Personally, I was on this early specialization track too, playing volleyball in high school, club, and camps in between. Fortunately, I had a mentor in my teens that gave the tool of Movement-Based Training to balance the repetitive demands of an overhead sport. His philosophy was that in order "to create confident, competitive, skillful athletes, we first need to establish a very strong foundation in dynamic balance, rhythmic footwork and an understanding of how to quickly reposition the body to gain a competitive advantage. Coordination is key to mastering any skill, and many young players are lacking this foundational component of sports mastery."

However, in college I lost sight of this when we shared trainers with football and basketball, and I suffered from a shoulder overuse injury that led to two surgeries and being medically disqualified my senior season.

"Repetitive stress can cause young bodies to break down." This repetitive stress is often due to early specialization and year-round training in a single sport, and leads to overuse injury and burnout (overtraining syndrome). Recovery from this repetitive stress allows the body to adapt and get stronger, reaping the real benefits of training, instead of digging the body into a hole. Many physicians feel that educating parents and coaches to catch the warning signs so they know when to give their kids a break is the best solution for prevention. Symptoms can also be disguised as fatigue and depression.

Education like this is coming from industry leaders like Courtney Watson, Head Trainer for the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks, professional boxing expert, and founder of Court's Corner LA . "In order to reach our goal of all Los Angeles County youth having access to high quality sports medicine athletic training, Court's Corner LA offers:

  • Training services to local school sports teams as well as curriculum and wellness programming for schools and community organizations.
  • An internship of hands-on work experience and career exposure for aspiring sports medicine professionals.
  • Health and wellness clinicsthroughout the year where youth athletes and their families can learn about proper nutrition, sports safety, and athletic injury prevention and rehabilitation.