What is early sport specialization?

  • Participation in intensive training and/or competition in organized sports greater than 8 months per year

  • Participation in 1 sport to the exclusion of participation in other sports 

  • Limited free play

  • Involving pre-adolescent children

Why is early specialization detrimental to young athlete development

Early sports specialization, or early single-sport specialization, is believed to be potentially damaging to the long-term physical and mental health of athletes and has not been validated as a requirement for competitive success in sport.  Early youth sport specilization has been associated with increased rates of overuse injury, burnout, decreased motivation for participation, and sports withdrawal.  While multipsport participation is proposed to result in better long-term performance and an increase in lifetime enjoyment of physical activity and recreational sports participation.

Recommendations for avoiding athlete burnout and injury include:

  • Avoiding over scheduling and excessive time commitments

  • Consider using a valid and reliable tool to monitor burnout

  • Emphasize skill development and fun

  • Emphasize life-long physical activity