Practice makes perfect. But should that practice be purely focused on one sport to achieve perfection?
The term ‘early specialisation’ is often discussed by sports scientists and psychologists when looking to answer this question. Most discussions focus on the long-term negative impacts this can have on a child’s development as a sports person, both physically and mentally – but, in dispelling one aspect, we often forget to acknowledge the other. So, the question we ask is what are the benefits of getting our children to play as many different sports as possible?
More sports = better overall physical development
Grab a dumbbell and start doing bicep curls and only bicep curls every day. What will the result be? You’ll probably have stronger and larger biceps than anyone else, but that’s about it.
The same exercise can be applied when we think of our child’s physical development through sport. Each individual sport has its own physical demands that help shape and develop the body differently. Playing a single sport results in the body being trained to respond and move in a certain way. Anything outside of this is often harder for the body to adapt to and learn and can increase the chance of injury through overuse or lack of development.
When children play lots of different sports there is a reduced risk of developing overuse injuries.
The same muscles that help a basketball player take a jump shot are used to help a swimmer push off the starting block, or the hand-eye coordination needed to return a tennis shot will also help guide a six over the boundary in cricket. We can’t pigeonhole our thinking that skillsets aren’t transferable between sports.
Did you know that some of the world’s and New Zealand greatest athletes played multiple sports as kids? New Zealand Women’s rugby star Portia Woodman was lined up to be a professional netballer before being invited to attend a rugby sevens trial in her early 20s. It’s also well documented that former New Zealand cricket captain Brendon McCullum was also an outstanding rugby player growing up.
The benefits of playing lots of different sports are that you more likely to develop a breadth of movement and skills.
Allowing our children to make the choice to specialise in a particular sport later in life with a base holistic skillset will help make them a better performing athlete.
Learn to love what they play
Monotony gets the better of all of us in life and the same applies to our children’s sporting experience. Repetition is boring, and over time it takes its toll on how much a child ultimately falls in love with sport. The result is often dropout or burnout in children before they reach their full sporting potential.
Variety breaks it up, offers new challenges and keeps it fun. We end up having children who are enjoying and falling in love with sport and not just playing sport. The goal is to have children who are self-motivated to participate and succeed through a love of trying to improve themselves and sport.