"Should my son/daughter play more than one sport?"
"When should he/she only focus on one sport?"
These are questions that I am asked daily. I can tell you that young children should have more than one particular set of skills when it comes to athletics. Most parents encourage their young athletes (6-15 y/o) to participate in more than one type of sport. In the fitness industry, we call this “generalized training” or “multilateral development.” There is a wide range of benefits athletes receive from playing multiple sports and implementing multiple training methods. These benefits can include:
- Better Motor Control
- An Increase in Neural Pathways
- Improved Cognitive Functions
- Better Overall Athleticism
Generalized training includes exercises and competitions that stress the body in a variety of ways, but they may not do so in the same manner the preferred sport would. Specialized training includes exercises and competitions that stress the body in a way that is very similar to - and often times customized for - the preferred sport.
Eventually, if an athlete is serious about a professional athletic career, they will focus on only one sport and drop all other sports. Now, here's the big question: When should an athlete make the decision to focus on one sport?
There is a surprisingly linear progression in which the generalization of an athletic program occurs. To simplify the findings of recent data, the amount of time spent in general or specific training can be broken down into percentages.
The figure at the top of the article shows that both types of training are beneficial for all athletes. As an athlete progresses in age and skill, the training should become more defined. This is a very good model, but believe me when I say, "No two athletes are the same."
Each athlete will require a slightly different progression of training. There are many factors that play into the timeline of training specialization. Some of these factors include chronological age, biological age, training age, psychological development, preferred sport and rate of adaptation.
My advice to parents that are serious in their children’s athletic career is this: Find a certified personal trainer, strength coach, or sports performance specialist.
Your young athlete needs to make the most of their training time and have a plan to grow and adapt.
Jordan Ainsworth is the Director of Youth Training at Dynamic Sports Training. Have a question about the article? E-mail Jordan Here
Drabik, Jozef Ph.D; Children and Sports Training
Bompa, Tudor Ph.D; Total Training for Young Champions