SPECIALIZATION CONCERNS: Maybe We’re Doing it Wrong here in the US…
For years in this country, active sports parents have instinctively bought into the concept that the sooner your youngster specializes in just one sport, the more accelerated their sports career will become.
As a result, we have kids as young as 5 or 6 in this country who are only playing soccer all year round…or just baseball…or ice hockey…or whatever. All other sports are seen as simply distracting and get in the way of the larger goal.
But now comes news from Canada that their athletic governing body is re-thinking about early specialization, and they’ve decided that this kind of approach just isn’t working well – especially as the kids grow into their later teenage years. The Canadians are now shifting toward “long-term athletic development” in the hopes that this new kind of approach will take them to greater success in the Olympic games and other international competition.
Now, this is a topic that I’ve written about before. But maybe the time has really come to re-evaluate just how important it is to push our kids into specialization. Example: on my show yesterday, I talked about a Rutgers University football player named Patrick Kivlehan. Patrick had been a stand-out football and baseball player in HS, but once he was recruited for Rutgers’ football, he never picked up a bat and glove again.
He played four years of football for the Scarlet Knights, but then, during the middle of his senior year, the baseball bug bit him, and he asked if he could try out for the Rutgers’ baseball team.
Most of the time, big-time baseball programs like Rutgers say no to tryouts. Remember, this was a kid who hadn’t played baseball in four years. But it’s to the baseball coaching staff’s credit to let Patrick try it, because he ended up not only being Rutgers’ best player this spring, but he led the Big East in HR’s, RBI’s and batting average.
Sure enough, he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 4th round and now he’s off to pursue a career in pro ball.
Bottom line? Just another case of where specializing in one sport really wasn’t necessary. If you’re truly that good as an athlete, don’t worry – your abilities will surface in one sport or another.