The U.S. Tennis Association, NCAA and NFL along with a number of other sports organizations have teamed together in a new ad aimed to educate parents and coaches.
The ad warns that kids who specialize in sports early on may not be on the best path for success, and writer Jennifer Wallace agrees. She said that even with the best intentions, parents of young athletes can be misguided.
“The idea that childhood should be spent working and not experimenting in multiple sports, is not in the best interest of the child,” Wallace said Tuesday on “CBS This Morning.”
The ad warns early specialization before age 12 can lead to overuse injuries, loss of interest in sports and decreased overall athletic development.
Young athletes need at least two months off each year to recover from a specific sport and almost 50 percent of adolescent sports injuries stem from overuse, according to American Sports Medicine Institute co-founder Dr. James R. Andrews.
Such intense focus on one sport may also overwhelm the child.
“When a child is specializing in just one sport, it becomes work, it’s not play, and childhood is about play,” Wallace said.
One factor driving the trend of athletic specialization, Wallace said, is parents hoping to get their kids ahead of the curve.
“Parents are looking to get scholarships or a leg up on the competitive admission process in college, but sports is not the way,” she said.
Only five percent of high school athletes will play college sports and only about 2 percent will get a scholarship, according to the NCAA.
“Parents have convinced themselves, as have the coaches, that the surest path to success is one sport, playing it for multiple months out of the year, at the exclusion of other sports,” Wallace said.
Some athletes, like Olympic champion Nastia Liukin, achieved success following more rigorous training programs. At the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy many, like Liukin, begin training as toddlers and the academy’s team gymnasts practice up to 32 hours per week. Tiger Woods and the Williams sisters also specialized in their respective sport at a young age.
But that’s not the case for most top athletes, according to Wallace.
“If you look at the recent studies of Olympic athletes, college Division 1 athletes and professional baseball players, minor leaguers, the majority of those players played multiple sports and did not specialize before age 12,” Wallace said.