Defining Sport Specialization Year-round participation in a single sport, at the exclusion of other sports and activities (1). An early start age of participation, early involvement in competition, intensive involvement from an early age, and an early focus on performance improvement and achieving success (2). Defining Sport Diversification Participation in a variety of different sports before deciding to concentrate all efforts on the pursuit of elite performance in one single sport. Current Status of Specialization
Not a new issueBut new issues are arising Farrey (2008) New attention (NASPE/USOC) Alarming reports and new concerns Applying Developmental Framework of Expertise Sampling years (6-12) Specializing years (13-15) Investment years (16+) (Cote, et al., 2003) Roots of early Sport Specialization &
Barriers to Educated and Informed Decisions Societal & Economic Family and Parental Talent and Skill Development Popular Media Stories of highly successful athletes Perceptions from the East Fair and Balanced? Privatization of Youth Sports (Coakley, 2010) Funding decline (political) for parks and recreation
Parks and Recreation Role: Brokers of sport programs to private programs and entrepreneurs Commercialization of Youth Sports Youth Sport Entrepreneurs Commercial Programs and Facilities Media and Marketing, e.g. Little league World Series Sporting Goods Industry Professionalization of High School Sports Coach and School Pressures
(Gould, et. al., 2009) Cultural Shifts Emphasis on responsibility and control of children (24/7/365) Focus on Parents vs. Communities as sponsors of youth sports Labeling Parent Worth-Child Achievement Link In two short generations, parents went from being lucky and proud to being the creators of child athletes (Coakley, 2010)
Leisure Time Trends (Malina, 2010) Discretionary vs. Organized time Personal Economic Forces Increased Expenses Pursuit of Scholarships Pursuit of Professional Contracts Migration of Eastern European Coaches (and programs)
The 10-year/10K hour rule Expertise Research Extended to Sport and Media Deliberate Practice vs. Deliberate Play The Focus on Time vs. Quality of Experience (Brylinsky, 2010) Skill Development an outcome of practice design and coach behaviors Initial Ability Correlated with Final Ability The failure to Disseminate Sport Science Information
to Parents and Coaches (Malina, 2010) What are the forces at work in your communities? What trends or shifts have you noticed? Is specialization or diversification reinforced or embraced? Coinciding and Interacting Forces - The Perfect Storm Deck is stacked heavily in favor of sport specialization
Counter-forces Level the playing field so that sport providers and consumers can make informed decisions. One approach: Initiate Education Efforts/Programs, e.g. Concussion Hazing Gambling Bullying There is a lot we know AND do not know about best practices in youth sport
specialization or diversification Skill Development Physical & Physiological Psychological/Social Abilities, mind, and body are developmental and maturational Discovering natural talents Predicting final performance from initial performance Fundamental motor skills base for future participation Successful with more athletic skills
(Clark & Metcalf, 2002) Repertoire of skills transferred from one activity to another (Berry, Abernathy & Cote, 2008) Practice content versus practice quantity Abernethy, 2003; Brylinsky, 2010) Implicit learning and deliberate play (Baker, Cote & Stages of Athletic Talent Development Investigators examining the history of talent
development in elite athletes suggest that champion athletes go through various phases of involvement: Stage 1-Entry or Initial phase Fun and development Stage 2-Investment phase Talent recognized, specialization in one sport begins Stage 3-Elite performance excellence phase Recognized as elite, many practice hours Stage 4- Excellence maintenance phase Recognized as exceptional, maintain excellence, considerable demands (reprinted in Weinberg & Gould ,2011) Diversification of elite athletes Odds of participation at higher levels
(USOC, 2002) (NCAA, 2011) Estimated Probability of Competing in Athletics Beyond the High School Interscholastic Level School Interscholastic Level Note: These percentages are based on estimated data and should be considered approximations of the actual percentages Last Updated: September 27, 2011 (NCAA) Student-Athletes Men's Basketball Women's Basketball High School Student Athletes 545,844
438,933 High School Senior Student Athletes 155,955 125,409 316,697 NCAA Student Athletes 17,500 15,708 NCAA Freshman Roster Positions 5,000
NCAA Senior Student Athletes Football Baseball 1,108,441 471,025 Men's Ice Men's Hockey Soccer 36,912 398,351 134,579 10,546 113,815 67,887
Percent High School to NCAA 3.2% 3.6% 6.1% 6.6% 10.7% 5.7% Percent NCAA to Professional 1.2% 0.9%
1.7% 11.6% 1.3% 1.0% Percent High School to Professional 0.03% 0.03% 0.08% 0.60% 0.10% 0.04%
Endocrine System Muscular System (growth rate & maturation) No supporting research accelerates or slows growth/maturation Improves strength and power w/ little hypertrophy (low levels of circulating testosterone) (Faigenbaum et al., 2009) Higher repetitions with lower weight Activates existing muscles Nervous System
(myelination of nerve fibers) Improvements (i.e., reaction, quickness, skill improvement) due to current level of developmental potential Cardiovascular System Limited benefits due to smaller heart size/lower blood volume Early training does not produce super endurance athletes (Rowland, 2005) With increased sport training and competition comes greater risk for injury Repetitive micro-trauma to soft tissues has potential long-term
consequences on musculoskeletal system Growth-related concerns (DiFiori, 2002; Valovich, et al., 2011) Articular cartilage (osteochondritis dissecans) Physis Injuries (growth plate area of bone) Apophyseal Injuries (bone/tendon junction) Osgood Schlatter patellar tendon Severs Disease Achilles tendon Cause or Contribute? Poor fitness levels Excessive training and errors in conditioning (FITT)
Delayed or stop of menses (early osteoporosis) Disordered eating Fatigue and inadequate rest Muscle weakness / imbalances 1-2 days off/week (competition, sport-specific training, competitive practices/scrimmages) 2-3 months away from specific sport training and competition Progressive Training Schedule Total distance, reps, weight should not increase by more than 10% each week Encourage participation on only one team during a season
Pay attention to complaints of nonspecific joint problems Educational opportunities for all involved OVERALL delay single sport specialization and promote sport diversification, especially at younger ages, before 12-13 years. (Brenner, 2007; Malina, 2010; Valovich et al., 2011) Withdrawal/Burnout (long-term result of emotional and/or physical exhaustion) Weinberg & Gould (2011) Pressure to win Time constraints, high training volumes Expectations (over-involvement) Self - perfectionism Imposed by others (parents) to advance Investment pressure
Parents commitment to allow children to be all they can be Parents judging their self-worth on childs achievements Societal emphasis on specialization Better coaches work with more talented players Social Concerns
Better coaching = better skill instruction Lack of a social life (lost childhood) Develop of social skills (social isolation) Lack of FUN and Interest Fake injuries to get out of the sport (crying out to stop) Athletic talent can be accurately predicted at a young age. True False A young athlete should have less fun if he/she is practicing to be an elite
athlete. True False All young athletes must progress through identified stages of athletic talent development. True False With early sport specialization comes increased sport training and competition with greater risk for injury. True False Sport scientists have indicated that athletes require a general sports
background during youth and early adolescence (age 7-13 years) in order to better prepare them for the vigorous demands of specializing in one sport. True False Most Olympic athletes participated in multiple sports (3 or more) between ages 10-14. True False Intense training among young athletes will lead to a college athletic scholarship about 20% of the time. True False
Talented children need different entry programs and coaching approaches than their less talented counterparts. True False Early sport specialization (pre-puberty) leads to decreased injury rates as it facilitates physical development. True False Early sport diversification (multi-sport participation) is positively related to length of sport involvement. True False What do you think are the primary cost-benefit considerations?
Might you add a consideration or clarify existing ones? Do any considerations warrant special attention? For the large majority of athletes in the large majority of sports: Diversification is the recommended pathway to elite performance
Positive associations between participation in multiple sports at a young age and career achievement Positive associations between participation in multiple sports at a young age and longevity Avoidance of negative consequences of early specialization Combination of the sport, individuals age, maturation, gender, and environment should be considered Encouraging diversification difficult and efforts are often indirect and ineffective We should explore our policies, rules, practices, or traditions that indirectly or directly promote/ discourage healthy sport participation
Self-study what we do (vs. parents) We want to hear from youand your communities For Example Rules to avoid negative effects of specialization Single sport participation, e.g. WTA age restrictions (2004) Positional Specialization, e.g. USA Volleyball Education/training for elite club coaches vs. developmental/recreation leagues
Middle and H.S. Coach Hiring (expectations and philosophy) Middle and H.S. Reward systems College coach recruitment of athletes H.S. Eligibility policies Middle and H.S. partnerships with club sports
What is happening in your community? Organizational practices, expectations, culture Recent changes How do they relate to sport specialization or diversification? What do you suggest/recommend as possible policies and practices? Assuming what we know about sport specializationdiversification is sufficient: Proactive education is the key to addressing sport and health problems
Who do we educate? How should we educate? What resonates with parents, coaches, administrators? What do we need to focus on? What is best approach(es)? For Example
Share what we know National position statements and guidelines (e.g. NASPE, AAP, ISSP) Dissemination of specific studies from sport scientists (lay language) WHY the risks Popularize what we know Examples and successes of diversified athletes (Quiz 2) Share the Odds (NCAA statistics) Share the Research on Elite Athletes (USOC study) SellAccentuate the Positive
Include in Coaching Education Look to approaches of other education programs (e.g. hazing, concussion, etc.) Materials Systematic steps to address/manage Funding
1. Played only basketball in college at Arizona 2. Was only 511 as a senior in High School 3. Not recruited out of high school 4. Wanted to be a pro ice hockey goalie, but was cut 5. Did not start playing ball until 14 years old 6. Did not start playing ball until 16 years old 7. Outstanding goalkeeper in soccer 8. Was a top college basketball player at UCLA 9. Was cut from his high school hoops team at 16 years old 10. Eyesight as a child was 20/500 11. Pitched in the Little League World Series 12. Played pro basketball before winning an Olympic medal in another team sport 13. Drafted 199th yet by his 4th season had two Superbowl MVP awards
14. Drafted 17th round yet won seven league titles Started out as a swimmer and only began playing ball in ninth grade after a hurricane destroyed the pool The practice of specialization is trending upward The evidence supporting specialization is trending downward Continue study and dissemination of best practice in specialization-diversification
Need education initiatives that best inform parents, coaches, administrators National Organizations American Academy of Pediatrics- Committee on Sports Medicine and Fitness Intensive Training and Sports Specialization in Young Athletes NASPE position statement Guidelines for Participation in Youth Sport Programs: Specialization Versus Multiple-Sport Participation International Society of Sport Psychology position statement Sport Specialization Guidelines Youth Sport-Specific Organizations Children involved in sports should be encouraged to participate in a variety of different activities and develop a wide range of skills. Young athletes who specialize in just one sport may be denied the benefits of varied activity while
facing additional physical, physiologic, and psychologic demands from intense training and competition. This statement reviews the potential risks of high-intensity training and sports specialization in young athletes. American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Sports Medicine and Fitness Policy Statement This National Agenda for Hazing Prevention in Education (2010) serves as a call to action to: Draw attention to the research about hazing, including its health and safety risks. Advance and promote research-based hazing prevention efforts. Coalesce individual and group efforts into a cohesive response to hazing. Marshal and maximize resources to support and advance hazing research and prevention.
Baker, J., Ct, J., & Abernethy, B. (2003). Learning from the experts: Practice activities of expert decisionmakers in sport. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 74(30), 342. Brenner, J.S. (2007). Overuse injuries, overtraining, and burnout in child and adolescent athletes. Pediatrics, 119(6), 1242-1245. DiFiori, J.P. (2010). Evaluation of overuse injuries in children and adolescents. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 9(6), 372-378. Clark, J.E., & Metcalf, J.S. (2002). The moutnain of motor development: A metaphor. In, J.E. Clark & J. Humphrey (Eds.), Motor development: Research and reviews, 2, 163-190. Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education Faigenbaum, A.D., Kraemer, W.J., Blimkie, C.J., Jeffreys, I., Mitcheli, L.J., Nitka, M., et al. (2009). Youth resistance training: Updated position statement paper from the national strength and conditioning association. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(5 Suppl), S60-79. Gibbons, T., Hill, R., McConnell, A., Forster, T., & Moore, J. (2002). The path to excellence: A comprehensive view of development of U.S. Olympians who competed from 1984-1998. United States Olympic Committee. Kaleth, A.S., and Mikesky, A.E. (2010). Impact of early sport specialization: A physiological perspective. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, 81(8), 29-32. Malina, R.M. (2010). Early sport specialization: Roots, effectiveness, risks. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 9(6), 364-371. Rowland T. (2005). Childrens exercise physiology (2nd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. Valovich McLEod, T.C., Decoster, L.C., Loud, K.J., Micheli L.J., Parker, J.T., Sandrey, M.A., and White, C. (2011). National Athletic Trainers Association position statement: Prevention of pediatric overuse injuries. Journal of Athletic Training, 46(2), 206-220.
Weinberg, R. & Gould, D. (2011). Foundations of sport and exercise psychology (5th ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. Berry, J., Abernethy, B. & Ct, J. (2008). The contribution of structured activity and deliberate play to the development of expert perceptual and decision-making skill. J Sport Exerc Psychol. Dec;30(6):685-708. Coakley, J. (2010). The Logic of Specialization: Using Children for Adult Purposes. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, 81(8), 16-18. Brylinsky, J. Practice makes perfect and other curricular myths in the sport specialization debate. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, 81(8), 22-25. Gould, D., Carson, S. Fifer, A.,& Lauer, L. (2009). Stakeholders perceptions of social-emotional and life development issues characterizing contemporary high school players. J of Coaching Education, 2(1), 1-25. Ct, J., Baker, J. & abernethy, B. (2003). From play to practice: A developmental framework for acquisition of expertise in team sports. In J.L. Starkes & K.A. Ericsson (Eds.), Expert performance in sports (89-113). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. You are a Youth Sport Administer, considering your knowledge of early sport specialization What injury prevention recommendations would you make for children
participating in youth sports? 1-2 days off/week (competition, sport-specific training, competitive practices/scrimmages) 2-3 months away from specific sport training and competition Progressive Training Schedule Total distance, reps, weight should not increase by more than 10% each week Encourage participation on only one team during a season Pay attention to complaints of nonspecific joint problems Educational opportunities for all involved OVERALL delay single sport specialization and promote sport diversification, especially at younger ages, before 1213 years.
You are the coach of a middle school basketball program, Identify early sport specialization-diversification topics that would be important to educate parents about in an orientation meeting for a team of 10-to 12-year-old athletes. Practices and games focus: learning new skills, gaining confidence in ones abilities and fostering a lifelong love of physical activities (NASPE). Educate: overtraining and overuse injuries Educate: burnout/dropping out Educate: potential to develop eating disorders Educate: opportunity to develop other skills Educate: small minority of athletes make it to the elite level Educate: natural talent may be in another sport Educate: social opportunities
You are working as a youth sport director of a YMCA that sponsors numerous sport programs for elementary and middle school age children, what strategies would you initiate to ensure positive psychological experiences for the children involved? Developmentally and instructionally appropriate activities! Learning a wide range of physical skills Exposure to diverse experiences and relationships Education on Burnout Discourage specialization in one sport until a young person can make a fully informed decision, usually at age 15 (NASPE).
Now what? Considering all information, how can we, as leaders in youth sport, educate about early sport specialization? How can we create and/or modify current practices and policies? How can we implement these practices and policies? Educate? Early Sport Specialization Create/Modify and Implement Policies
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