2/1/08

Early Specialization

There was an interesting story in Tuesdays USA Today about Wes Welker Wide Receiver for the New England Patriots. He is undersized 5-9 185 and slow by NFL standards, but he is very good athlete. Guess what sport he played as a youth, yep that un-American sport of soccer. His college coach attributes a good degree of his success to the body control and footwork he learned in soccer. When you think about it really is not that remarkable. It is just another example of building a broad foundation of athletic development. The evidence is overwhelming is favor of building a good base of athletic movement skill, this is just one more prominent example. Why do coaches want kids to specialize earlier and do nothing but sport. Wouldn’t it be better to make the goal creating the best athlete possible by giving them a full toolbox of athletic skills, rather than locking them into a narrow range of movements? Athletically you have to earn your right to progress to the next level by learning the athletic alphabet and the multiplication tables, a sound foundation in athletic literacy so to speak. There is another dimension to early specialization that everyone seems to be ignoring, injuries. Not so much the injuries the injuries that occur when participating and training in youth sport, but the injuries that occur later because of the one dimensional movement patterns these athletes develop by doing years of the same movements. When they have to do something outside their skill set they get hurt. A good foundation of athletic literacy will armor them against these types of injuries. There are so many dimensions to the problem of early specialization that it would a book to address them all. Suffice to say that say that early specialization leads to early stagnation.

3 Comments:

At 2/1/08, 10:31 AM, Blogger Liset said...

Vern,
You're correct in the fact that most good/ elite athletes have a comprehensive movement base. Soccer is a great sport in that it develops the eye-foot co-ordination. This component of movement education is indeed lacking in this country. One reason why it takes the U.S. so long to learn the hammer.

 
At 2/1/08, 8:16 PM, Blogger Dr Craig S. Duncan said...

Hi Vern again you are right on. In Australia in soccer players are specialising from 5-7 year old with no time to lay other sports. Outdoor soccer is replaced in the summer with indoor and even summer outdoor soccer. No time to play other sports as people perceive you must be in the right program from early on to make the right teams. It is terrible as the kids are not good athletes and as yu stated I see them at 18-20 and they have not developed the fundamental movement patterns and injuries are common. In the past Australian kids could play soccer/cricket/Track but I know of 11 year olds doing 10 soccer sessions/week for the entire year and this is more common than not

 
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