Children Specialising in Sports: How Young is Too Young?


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This is my presentation for the unit 'Sport Coaching Pedagogy' April 2012

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Children Specialising in Sports: How Young is Too Young?

  1. 1. Alissa GoschFriday 13th April, 2012Sport Coaching Pedagogy Presentation 1
  2. 2. Outline of Presentation• Background to child specialisation within sport• Importance to study• Critical evaluation of research• Practical applications of research findings• Future research required/gaps in research• Conclusion• Reference list 2
  3. 3. Background• What is early specialisation? Implies a focus or involvement in one particular sport[4], involving a number of deliberate activities, skills or drills[6, 14]. All with a goal of improving a child’s skills throughout their childhood years[6].• Regular participation in sport provides many physical, psychological, social benefits to children[2, 8, 9, 10].• Issues arise. Drop out for various reasons, lose interest and others stop because of injuries• Some sports specialise from an early age, but there are associated risks in doing this, as there are with specialising in any sport[12]. 3
  4. 4. Importance to Study• A controversial topic. Cover some issues brought and the benefits or risks a child takes by specialising in sport too early.• Proven that talent development involved with connecting an athlete and a support system[10]. 4
  5. 5. Evaluation of Research• Found that development in performance is dependent on the ability to acquire knowledge, characteristics and/or skills[9] throughout three distinct stage of life[10, 14].• The early years or ‘romance phase.’ Child develops a love and passion, receiving encouragement, participation in unstructured play to explore and having fun as well as succeeding[10].• The middle years or ‘precision phase.’ Focus on skill development or technical ability[10}.• The ‘integration phase.’ Child continually works leading coach and dedicates time to develop optimal performance or skills. Sacrifice and realisation process takes place 5
  6. 6. • Phases take place over 15 - 20 years and each person moves through phases progressively• Mental abilities of the athletes doing this must also be advanced enough to have these thought processes [9] and have ability to cope[12]• Earlier specialisation started, faster and earlier burnout, have tendency to get more injuries[3, 5, 10, 11, 12]. Other risks: overdependence and social isolation[3, 12]. Reported children 10 years old, encouraged to specialise in one sport, train all year round[5, 6, 11].• Age of athletes attending and winning medals at the Olympic Games getting younger, becoming general idea the younger an athlete specialises the better[14]. 6
  7. 7. • Advocates of early specialisation believe time spent doing deliberate practice distinguishes future experts from non-experts[5].• Big concern other research done shows athletic ability can’t be properly identified prior to the onset of puberty[4, 10].• The International Society of Sport Psychologists (ISSP) position stand: “To Sample or to Specialize,” that promotes sustained participation as well as elite performance[4].• Children sampling a range of sports have a tendency to continue sport recreationally in their teen years[5]. 7
  8. 8. • Other studies found a negative relationship between early specialisation and success later in careers. Seems the way to go: early exposure to a range of sports and later intensify training to particular sport in mid to late adolescence (appears optimal and critical time to specialise)[4].• Number of studies mentioned the child specialising in sport, must have motivation to want to learn, be disciplined and committed[1, 6, 7, 9].• Question: how many children really know what sport they want to explicitly succeed in for the rest of their lives? ? ? ? ? Which sport to do??? 8
  9. 9. Practical Applications1. Commitment to one sport brings a child into a complex world regulated by adults. Setting that facilitates manipulation in a range of areas from socialisation, to dietary, and commercialisation. Let children sample a range of sports to reap the benefits later on in life[12].2. Most important thing is what’s best for the needs/wants of the child? [14]3. Instead of having a parent choose sport a child is to specialise in, let them sample sports and make decision themselves when they are ready.• PARTICIPATION in sport not specialisation is the way to go! 9
  10. 10. Further Research• More studies are needed to understand appropriate amount of training without causing dropout, overtraining, injury and/or burnout. Study would need to be both gender based (as each sex has different reason for participating in sport), as well as be sport specific[4].• Youth Olympics good place to start? Looking at the intricacies of youth sport performance with main goal to help and protect the child athlete. Study educates coaches in suitable strategies promoting skill development, encouraging sport commitment and participation[4].• Little research done on best way to train children, how much, how often and the intensity of training, as well as appropriate modification of competition formats. 10
  11. 11. Conclusion• Early sport specialisation not recommended for children until onset of puberty (usually around 12 or 13) as their bodies have not started to fully develop. Nor are they necessarily in the head space to pick up and be able to perform intricacies detrimental to sports success• Let children sample a range of sports during childhood in order for them to reap the benefits later on in life• Specialising in sports too early could lead to psychological issues[3, 13], overdependence and physical issues such a burnout with possibility of discouraging children from participating in sport later on 11
  12. 12. Take Home Thought Have you or someone you know, eitherknowingly or unknowingly, specialised in a sport as a child? 12
  13. 13. References[1] Baker, J., Cobley, S., & Fraser-Thomas, J., 2009, ‘What do we know about early sport specialization? Not much!’, High Ability Studies, vol. 20, no 1, pp. 77-89.[2] Bergeron, M.F., 2010, ‘The young athlete: Challenges of growth, development, and society’, Current Sports Medicine Reports (American College Of Sports Medicine), vol. 9, no 6, pp. 356-358.[3] Callender, S., 2010, ‘The early specialization of youth in sports’, Athletic Training & Sports Health Care: The Journal For The Practicing Clinician, vol. 2, no 6, pp. 255-257.[4] Capranica, L., & Millard-Stafford, M., 2011, ‘Youth sport specialization: How to manage competition and training?’, International Journal Of Sports Physiology & Performance, vol. 6, no 4, pp. 572-579.[5] Coté, J., Horton, S., MacDonald, D., & Wilkes, S., 2009, ‘The benefits of sampling sports during childhood’, Physical & Health Education Journal, vol. 74, no 4, pp. 6-11.[6] Côté, J., Lidor, R., & Hackfort, D., 2009, ‘ISSP position stand: To sample or to specialize? Seven postulates about youth sport activities that lead to continued participation and elite performance’, International Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology, vol. 7, no 1, pp. 7-17.[7] Duda, J.L., 1987, ‘Toward a developmental theory of childrens motivation in sport’, Journal Of Sport Psychology, vol. 9, no 2, pp. 130-145. 13
  14. 14. [8] Fraser-Thomas, J., Cote, J., & Deakin, J., 2008, ‘Examining adolescent sport dropout and prolonged engagement from a developmental perspective’, Journal Of Applied Sport Psychology, vol. 20, no 3, pp. 318-333.[9] KARPOWICZ, K., & STRZELCZYK, R., 2010, ‘Characteristics of motor abilities of young athletes of selected sports during sports training’, Studies In Physical Culture & Tourism, vol. 17, no 1, pp. 33-40.[10] Gould, D., & Carson, S., 2004, ‘Fun and Games?’, Youth Studies Australia, vol. 23, no 1, pp. 19-26.[11] Hill, G.M., 1993, ‘Youth sport participation of professional baseball players’, Sociology Of Sport Journal, vol. 10, no 1, pp. 107-114.[12] Malina, R.M., 2010, ‘Early sport specialization: Roots, effectiveness, risks’, Current Sports Medicine Reports (American College Of Sports Medicine), vol. 9, no 6, pp. 364- 371.[13] Petlichkoff, L.M., 1992, ‘Youth sport participation and withdrawal: Is it simply a matter of fun?’, Pediatric Exercise Science, vol. 4, no 2, pp. 105-110.[14] Wiersma, L.D., 2000, ‘Risks and benefits of youth sport specialization: Perspectives and recommendations’, Pediatric Exercise Science, vol. 12, no 1, pp. 13-22. 14