Habits of Early Specialization in Children

As coaches, it is all too easy to look to the things that the players of our teams need to possess. As parents, it’s easy to persuade a child that has mad skills to do better at the game they play because they could go far. Yet, if we are not careful, we could put too much pressure on a child.

A child should be a child. Games that they play should be fun. We as adults need to put our focus more on teaching them how to work as a team than picking out the next Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and other athletes who our young players want to be just like.

That is why there is a danger with early specialization in players. You might have done this as a parent. Seen them pitch so you make darn sure they go all the way in baseball. You have seen them tackle, and you will make sure they reach the NFL.

There are pros and cons to early specialization in players. Scientists have concluded this. For those who are forced too hard, they might back away. They might rebel. For the game is not their game anymore but the game they have to win as they feel that they have to please not only the coach, but the parent as well.

Yet, for some, this is what they need. That gentle shove shows them at what they excel in and from there it only gets better. The manner in which we do this can really hurt or help a child. It all depends on what your intentions are. Some have very good intentions, but drive it a full force to the breaking point.

The question then is how often do these special key players play? Some have been motivated to play a year round which brings up another question in which studies have been done on. For those who do play a year round at such a young age, are they giving up their youth? While you should encourage them to play sports, at what point do you as the adult say that “I think this is becoming too much.”? For some kids, this is their only opportunity to make it far. Yet, when they do make it far, they could go all the way, and they do, they become so focused on that one sport and the specialization in which they possess for that sport that nothing else matters. Have you then created a monster?

All of these are great questions. We all have been wondering then. As coaches and parents, it is our job to enforce the knowledge that if they put their mind to it, they can do anything. Yet, our other obligation is to make sure that they become the sound adults that children should become. We need to ensure that they get what they need in life. While money might be needed, education and more needs to be taught as well not just making the dough to excel in life.

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