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Why do Young athletes need diversity in their sports

Updated: Mar 18, 2022

As the Director of Spartan Performance, I often entertain questions and concerns from sports parents, coaches, and athletes about training, injury prevention, performance, competition, etc. I also observe the daily and weekly schedules of young athletes and the physical, #psychological, social, and time demands placed upon them. Reflecting on these issues, a few common themes emerge – overscheduling, over-competition and undertraining, and sports specialization.


Too many games and early specialization in sport can have drawbacks despite the notion that parents believe it will put their child ahead in the race for a college scholarship. Several of today’s young athletes lack fundamental motor skills (run, jump, throw, hop, etc.) and possess inadequate strength, balance, mobility, and other physical capacities due to the focus on competitions and inadequate time for physical preparation.


Along these same lines, a recent ESPN article highlighted four injury risks amongst young NBA athletes:

  1. Lack of quality sleep

  2. Weaker Bones

  3. Increased wear and tear from early specialization

  4. Weaker muscles (from lack of physical preparation)

So what can we do? Part of the solution is to think about the long-term, holistic development of the young #athlete. Coaches should implement a proper dynamic warm-up that enhances movement quality. In addition, a well-designed strength training program can reduce the likelihood and severity of injury and impact performance as well. However, coaches need to schedule time into daily practice to allow not only for X’s and O’s and skill development, but also physical athletic competencies such as strength, speed, and #agility to be developed.


Proper nutrition should be taught and modeled for the young athlete as well. This can be accomplished with a short message at the end of practice and through messaging with parents. Likewise, the importance of sleep being a cornerstone in the recovery process should also be addressed. Quite simply, keep your #gadgets out of the bedroom.


A final note on #sports #specialization. Approximately 88 percent of Divison 1 athletes participated in an average of two or three sports as a child, and 70 percent did not specialize in one sport until after the age of 12. Sports specialization and #overscheduling can lead to overuse injury and burnout. Sports specialization may also lead to a lack of development of other sports skills and a potential dislike of their current sport, which in turn, may lead to physical inactivity as an adult.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Dr. Joe Eisenmann, Ph.D. is a professor of pediatric exercise medicine within the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Director of Spartan Performance. To learn more about Spartan Performance visit snapp.msu.edu

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