Are young athletes too focused?

A recent column considers the question of early specialization among young athletes. It argues, in part:

The problem isn’t with trying to identify potential blue-chip athletes at an early age. It’s the pressure of one-sport specialization that eliminates too many kids’ multisport experiences and creates false expectations of superstardom in those who do get into the game. At the rate we’re going, dugouts will need to be lined with high chairs, and Gatorade will launch a brand of apple juice. Need new Under Armour? Try Baby Gap.

There are a few other problems here as well. First, one-sport specialization, especially in formative stages of physical development, can lead to imbalances and overuse injuries. Do we want kids needing rotator cuff repairs because all they did was pitch between ages 2 and 12?

Second, I just saw a study that indicates that 86% of athletes cease physical activity when they are not competing. That means people who are naturally inclined towards physical activity simply quit when they’re not under the pressure of a tournament or a coach. The most often-cited reason? Burnout.

This brings me to the third reason: single-sport specialization with the underlying push towards a pro sports career doesn’t just reflect a bad grasp of statistics; it also sucks the fun out of exercise in general. And in Stumptuous world, fun sucking is a cardinal error.