Athlete Academy: Don’t Over Specialize – Burning Out
In my last blog, I wrote about some of the dangers of overspecializing from a mechanical standpoint, like why it may actually hinder rather than help a child’s ability in a given sport. As a quick reminder, when I talk about over specializing, I mean having a young athlete do one sport, and only one sport, year round without ever being introduced to different movements or events.
Today I want to talk about the mental aspect, which is the high burnout factor that over specializing can lead to. You may not feel this way about everything, but as human beings we need change because change leads to growth. That growth can be physical or mental. When a child is put in the same sport, doing the same movements over and over and over again, without being exposed to something else, eventually that child will most likely become disinterested in the sport. Often times, they will quit entirely because they get sick of it.
Imagine you are fed nothing but chicken and rice every day, for every meal your entire childhood. What are you going to do the SECOND that you are given the option to stop eating it? You may never eat it again. Same thing can happen with kids and sports. Not only will they become sick of it, but even if they do keep playing they will never reach their full potential. Disinterest breeds disengagement, and a disengaged player will never reach their full potential.
Lastly, it boils down to the pressure associated with overspecializing. Imagine you have been pushed to play a particular sport your entire life. In season you’re hyper focused, in your off season you are bouncing between 2-3 rec or travel teams, and you spend 8 weeks of your 10 week summer vacation at camps dedicated to the same thing. Now what happens when that kid goes to high-school, has to make a team for the first time but doesn’t make it? That kid is likely to: A) feel like they let everyone down, or B) stop moving entirely because they have nothing else to fall back on.
Don’t create more burnout. There are already hundreds of thousands of adults my age who don’t move anymore because it got so stressful and so frustrating that it wasn’t worth it anymore and they stopped entirely. Don’t add to that statistic.