In A Devilish Mood: The topic of sport specialization – is it good or bad?
I want to start with this disclaimer – “This is my opinion.”
I say this because everybody has a different opinion on when and whether kids should focus all their attention on one sport. I feel playing multiple sports as a youth can do nothing but help you excel as an athlete. When I was younger, it was the norm for kids to play multiple sports as they grew up and all sports had different seasons which made it easy for kids to do so. I grew up playing baseball in the summer and hockey in the winter. I tried basketball and football and quickly learned that those two sports were not for me.
Nowadays, either you have coaches preaching to parents that if their son or daughter wants to get a college scholarship or play professionally, they need to play that one sport all year long or you just have parents that believe that is what is best in order for their child to reach the top levels.
First off, I could not disagree more with that theory and we have to look at what is driving this belief – MONEY. The amount of money these professional athletes are making these days is absolutely life-changing, not only for the athlete, but for the athlete’s family’s future. Having your child sign a professional contract is like hitting the lottery, but I might also add that the odds of either of those two things happening are similar.
The bottom line is that the cream usually rises to the top and the young adults who make it to the college or pro levels are usually the best athletes. Becoming a good athlete involves taking a stab at multiple sports. There is also a lot more than just talent that is required to play at the higher levels.
Sports at the higher levels are a thinking person’s game and while some kids may excel at two sports, they may have a better mind for one of them. If talent were the only criteria, we would know going in who was going to win the championships. A team that believes they can win and outworks their opponent can beat a higher talented team on any given night. The No. 1 trait of a professional athlete is work ethic and the belief that they can achieve anything they want as long as they work hard enough.
This is rare to find in children these days and that is exactly the purpose for youth sports. If we can help instill this attitude in your child then we, as coaches and programs, are doing a great job. The numbers show that the vast majority of our children will not be playing sports for a living. However, if their coaches have instilled in them this lesson, then they have a great chance at excelling at whatever it is they decide to do for a living.
Attitude is everything and it is one thing if a kid just loves that sport so much that he wants to play all the time and completely different thing if the kid is playing one sport around the clock because their parents are pushing them to do so. Either way, kids need to take a break from any one sport and explore other sports or hobbies throughout the year. I believe that the body and mind both need a break from one activity.
The bottom line is that growing up should be the best years of your life and that is all about having fun! The experiences our children have as young athletes are going to be cherished for the rest of their lives and it is my belief that we, as parents, should encourage them to try as many different sports/activities as they can while they are young.
That’s just my two cents.
Brad McCaughey is the director of hockey operations and coach-in-chief for DYHA.
(Jan. 12, 2018)