The optimal age for specialising in a single sport is a well debated topic in athlete-development circles.
Of course, parents want to give their kids every possible chance to succeed in sport and in life and often think that early specialisation is the best way to accomplish this. The evidence however suggests that specialising at a later age is not only beneficial, but that early specialisation may be detrimental and dangerous to the long-term development of a youth athlete. The danger in early specialisation comes from the increased likelihood of overuse injuries and the increased likelihood of “burnout”.
Constantly repeating the same training drills and playing the same sport year-round can increase the odds that a child becomes disinterested and bored in sport altogether. The biggest benefit of late specialisation is greater movement literacy that comes from playing a range of sports meaning that children develop more versatile movement competency skills early in their athletic career.
There is no widely-accepted optimal age for specialisation however major Australian and American sporting bodies agree that the negative effects of being single-sport focused are more likely to occur when an athlete specialises before turning 12. At Vector Health and Performance, we have seen firsthand the benefits that come from having a diverse range of movement skills and providing this diverse movement library is something we are passionate about.
Our junior clinics offer a great opportunity for children to be exposed to a wide range of movement demands and give them the movement diversity needed to succeed if and when they do specialise in a sport.
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