02 May Kids and Sports: The Advantage of Multiple Sports Over Specialization
Encouraging movement and activity at a young age can have many benefits for a child’s motor skill development and overall health. Playing active sports and games facilitates coordination and balance while also developing valuable life skills such as cooperation, selflessness and sportsmanship. That’s why Amazing Athletes is dedicated to providing a year-round, structured curriculum to kids that involves several different ball sports designed to help them master key areas of motor-development.
Although sports are an important element of youth activity and movement, their beneficial effects are becoming negated by the increasingly competitive atmosphere surrounding children’s athletics. Kids today are encouraged to specialize in one sport as early as kindergarten, and parents pressure their offspring to train year-round in the hopes that they will become exceptional athletes.
But specializing in one sport too early can have harmful effects. According to an article in the Huffington Post by Sharon Chirban, a psychology instructor at Harvard Medical School, encouraging specialization at a young age can put a child’s long-term development in jeopardy. Chirban says allowing a child’s body time to rest is essential for healthy development; otherwise, the skeletal system could be permanently damaged from excessive stress. When kids specialize, the risk of serious injury increases because the athletes are training and working the same muscles and joints year-round with no recovery time.
Chirban also explains that psychological threats can arise from specialization. For example, children who spend an excessive amount of time practicing for a particular sport frequently experience burnout and withdrawal from sports before high school, and the accompanying pressure and stress from intense training can result in mental fatigue. Moreover, when intense training and specialization do not result in professional athletic careers, depression, loss of identity and loss of self-esteem can occur.
Although sports specialization can be dangerous to development, there are still many ways that parents and caregivers can encourage the healthy and active lifestyle that is so important to physical and mental growth. One great option arises directly from the old adage, “Variety is the spice of life!” That is, keeping kids involved in many sports and activities goes a long way in ameliorating the harmful effects of specialization.
According to Chirban, cross-training in various sports require child athletes to work different muscles and joints which creates better overall conditioning. Practicing many disciplines also results in the development of multiple sets of athletic skills which may transfer between sports and create better overall athletes. Best of all, variety breaks up the routine of training and keeps children interested—so they are getting healthy and having fun at the same time!
Amazing Athletes strives to keep kids healthy, active and interested. Our program avoids the over-training and over-competitive components of sports specialization by introducing young athletes to 9 different types of sports and many different exercise movements—not just one. We ensure children can develop at their own pace in a non-competitive, fun environment that shows kids that healthy living is fun.
To enroll your child in an Amazing Athletes program, find the nearest Amazing Athletes location near you by visiting www.amazingathletes.com/locations. In our classes, children learn the fundamentals of nine different sports, are taught to master seven key areas of motor-development, and gain essential life skills at the same time. Amazing Athletes offers classes for all ages ranging from 18 months to 11 years old in the following programs:
- Amazing Athletes – Our signature program for preschoolers and kindergartners (2 ½-6 yrs.)
- Amazing Tots – A discovery-based program catered to toddlers (18 mos.-2 ½ yrs.)
- Amazing Parties – Combine fitness and fun for your next celebration (all ages)
- Amazing Camps – When one class per week just isn’t enough (all ages)