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The reasons why your children should not early specialize in one sport

Kids are not meant to focus on one sport their whole lives without being exposed to other forms of play. I can quickly bring up many articles and studies that support the idea of keeping your kids participating in multiple sports until they are in high school or later. Year-round training in one activity leads to more burnout, more injuries, and more stress on your children.

If you take the same movement patterns and repeat them day after day, month after month, year after year, the same muscles and skeletal structures are being used and stressed. This leads to overuse injuries. This can lead to chronic injuries. This can lead to your child’s performance decreasing over the long term, replacing joy with frustration. That’s what you have to consider when all of a child’s time with sports end up placed into one basket.

You might be reading this and thinking about how your child has been told that she is going to get a scholarship in volleyball, softball, or tennis. She needs to focus on this sport to make sure she is competitive enough to reach her goal. That doesn’t mean she can’t take some time to focus on another activity every once in a while. Yes, she can have a main sport that is her biggest passion, but putting her in another sport in the offseason lets her rest and recharge mentally while allowing her to continue to improve her strength, athleticism, and cardio endurance.

If that’s the case, when can you start to specialize? Obviously, there comes a time when focusing on one activity becomes beneficial. Professional and Olympic athletes do it all the time. That answer is up for debate. I’ve heard some professionals say when they get to high school. Others will say college. If you have a female gymnast in the house, their peak age for being most competitive is younger than most sports, so some experts will say they can specialize a bit younger.

Honestly, I think it’s hard to make a generalization like that, and it should often be taken on a more case-by-case basis. Remember that specialization isn’t always necessary to be great, either. NFL QB Russell Wilson, one of the greatest athletes in the league, was drafted to be a baseball player and still goes to spring training with the pros every year after he is done with his football season.

Wait, isn’t this blog usually about mountain sports…let’s bring it back to that for a minute…I think that mountain adventure sports can also be a great way to get your children that variety that they need in their sports training. Say your child has been working on pitching for baseball during the week in the summer. Great. Let’s take ‘em out to a rock wall on the weekend and work on something different with some climbing activity! Now he is getting to use his shoulder in a different movement that helps to improve his overall strength and stability, making him less susceptible to injury.

Overall, I would say that this becomes less of an issue with children who are involved in mountain adventure sports. Weather patterns dictate that winter is for skiing/snowboarding and in the summer months you can mountain bike, kayak, etc. I doubt many parents are shipping their kids off to South America to train for skiing in our summer months or kayaking during our winter months. It does happen, I suppose. You get the point, though…it’s rare.

Probably the one that needs to be considered most is rock climbing with the ever-rising popularity of indoor climbing gyms. This allows for easy year-round training in any part of the country. There is no problem with allowing kids to do this to be able to work on their skills all year. You do need to give them breaks, however. Let them take a couple of weeks away. Sign them up for a basketball league to get some varied training. You will be doing him/her a favor.

Now that I’ve sat down and written this post, I realize I can easily break this down into multiple posts that talk more about the benefits of varying training for children. I think that is just what I will do, so look out in the future for more on this topic! As always, feel free to reach out with questions. I am happy to chat about what I do! Email me at, contact me on social media, or fill out the contact form on this website!

a man standing with his arms crossed in front of him.

Dr. Scott Runyon

Backcountry Physical Therapy

We Help Mountain Athletes Not Only Recover From Injuries, But Build Them Back Stronger Than They Were Before, So That Injuries Are Less Likely To Happen Again!