Professor Joe Baker in the Faculty of Health's School of Kinesiology & Health Science spoke to the Vancouver Sun about whether children gain advantages by specializing early in one sport:
The era of sports specialization at a young age is upon us, despite alarm bells sounded by medical professionals who say we are putting young athletes at risk of burnout and overuse injuries at ever younger ages. Their young bodies rebel.. . .The irony in the sports specialization trend, according to Joe Baker, a professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science in the Faculty of Health, is that there’s simply no evidence to suggest specialization at a young age improves an athlete’s chance of success, wrote the Vancouver Sun Oct. 16. In fact, the evidence is that the majority of successful athletes come from what he calls a “sampling background,” meaning they have played a variety of sports.
Baker said he’s talked to elite coaches around the world who have told him that athletes who don’t have exposure to a variety of sports and unstructured play lack fundamentals.
“They are good at performing motor skills associated with their sport, but they can’t creatively experience or creatively demonstrate something novel.”
Indeed, research suggests that playing a sport in an unstructured way improves one’s chances of excelling at it later on. A German study comparing soccer players who were involved exclusively in structured training to those involved in unstructured play found the latter group to be more creative on the field.
“If you look at hockey players and the types of training they do when they are really young, they play a lot of structured hockey. But if you look at the bulk of their time, it’s road hockey, it’s pond hockey, it’s pickup scrimmage games with the neighbourhood kids,” Baker said.
Republished courtesy of YFile – York University’s daily e-bulletin.