Early Specialization

Last night I attended a presentation by Julie Foudy. During the Q & A she was asked how she started in soccer and how early she recommended kids start. Her answer was very enlightening. She said she started playing soccer at age nine (she emphasized not age six). She said she played everything, volleyball, basketball, football with her brothers, softball and track & field. She did not focus on soccer exclusively until she went to college to play soccer. She elaborated even further that the same was true for all her contemporaries, the core players on that 99 World Cup team. Interesting all of them went on to play for 18 plus years. It is also interesting to note that she had no significant injuries during her career – I think the two are related. They all build a great base of athleticism before they specialized.

I just wish we could get this message out there. Play everything. If you want to prevent ACL injuries in females get them playing everything. Get them aware of their bodies. They will enjoy play, stay injury free and be better athletes.


At 5/16/06, 8:58 AM, Blogger Joe P. said...

Your point is well taken Vern, but let's look at it from another angle. As the years go by and our pool of athletes keeps shrinking, more is being asked of the adolescent athlete. They are being pulled in at least 3 different directions by their respective coaches- not to mentioned their "club" coaches. In the mean time, politicians & the media are calling for a longer school day, to the point where now practically everyone goes to school year round. Injuries begin to pile one on top of the other, with little time for remedial work. By the time the spring comes around, the athletes are pretty much burnt our physically & mentally.

At 5/16/06, 11:31 PM, Blogger katie said...

joe p. has a valid perspective and I find his statements about school and club coaches pressuring adolescents to specialize. I feel this is an opportunity for responsible parenting. I grew up playing everything and specializing in soccer at the college level. My parents never forced me into any sport however they did strictly enforce a 'one sport at a time' rule. I was never allowed to have a soccer game in the morning and softball game that afternoon despite my insistance. It kept me motivated to try new things and develop new skills. Ultimately it is not the coaches choice but the parents responsibility.


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