New data out (that I happen to LOVE) seems to go against many parental instincts, including a few of my own. I think plenty of parents have been led to believe in the last few decades that specialization and mastery in a single sport early in life is GOOD for their children. Some of that instinct rises from our guts in the mis-appointed “10,000 hours rule.” The idea that once our children do something for 10,000 hours they will be an expert. The 10,000 hour rule (brought to masses in part via Malcolm Gladwell) suggests that with dedication and time (10,000 hours) a person will develop mastery over a sport or skill. A recent American Academy of Pediatrics clinical report states, “it has often been misquoted that to succeed, an athlete needs to have 10,000 hours of practice/competition over 10 years. The media have incorrectly extrapolated Ericsson and co-workers’ studies of chess players to a formula for sports success. Many examples exist of successful athletes who have <10,000 hours and others who have not succeeded despite having >10,000 hours of practice/competition.”
Children in sports have changed over the last 40 years.
There is increased pressure to participate at a high level, to specialize in 1 sport early, and to play year-round, often on multiple teams. This increased emphasis on sports specialization has led to an increase in overuse injuries, overtraining, and burnout. ~Dr. Joel S. Brenner
And it’s just not true that grunt hours in a single sport will make champions of all of our children. Worse — focusing early and often on one single sport may lead to overuse injuries, burnout, isolation, and a less likely shot at succeeding at and loving sports for a lifetime.
I think in the time of the tech boom we can also be led astray by the “Zuckerberg effect” — the idea that we can only really change the world by focusing on a single thing and becoming a global master in doing so.
Reality is, those children who specialize in a single sport early are at higher risk for overuse injuries, burnout, quitting sports altogether and even isolation and loneliness. Successful, even elite athletes, are more likely to develop when our children don’t specialize in a single sport until late puberty, around age 15 or 16 years. Read full post »