To many times nowadays, youth athletes, as young as 5 or 6 years old are starting to be specialized in a specific sport.
At this age, kids have a wide spectrum in their ability to move based on growth rates, learning ability, genetics, and other factors out of their control. It's not until about age 13 do adolescents start to gain more body awareness and are able to handle more complex movements.
Having a narrowed training regimen can hinder a youth athletes ability to develop a broad spectrum of skills that can be built upon in the future.
Let's say you have a child that is about 8 years old and you want them to specialize in baseball. There are a wide variety of skills in other sports that are transferrable that baseball itself does not specifically train for.
For example, an outfielder may run down a fly ball, do a somersault, get back on their feet, and throw a runner out at home plate.
The ability to run, tumble forward, and recover quickly to actually throw the ball to home plate is not a skill taught in baseball.
You would likely gain the ability to roll and recover in a sport like gymnastics or martial arts. These two in particular are incredible activities for youths because they expose you to so many unique movement variations that you just don't get anywhere else.
I'm not saying you have to be competitive in these, but even doing them in conjunction with a sport during crucial developmental years (ages 8-13) will pay off in the long run.
You will start to see things clicking once these kids begin to gain greater movement competency and can build quickly on a large foundation of movement options. The movements are ingrained and almost automatic.
Just like when Daniel LaRusso complains to Mr. Miyagi that all those chores he's been doing has nothing to do with karate, and........BAM!
Wax on wax off is a way to block incoming punches.
Getting multiple sports in during the youth years pays dividends in your physical development as an athlete, and if activity is maintained when sports are in the rearview mirror, it can have a beneficial impact on your long-term physical health.
By having more exposure to a baseline of movement skills, you can actually reduce overall injury rates as new activities may not be as hard to adapt to.
Even if you weren’t a multi-sport athlete, it does not mean that all is lost.
Even at later ages, exposing yourself to any variety of movement practices and learning new tasks can help build your physical resilience.
And on top of that, the new tasks will rewire healthy neurons in the brain for a cognitive boost.
Stop specializing so early and get out there and let you body be free. Do as many activities you can handle (within reason).
Dr. Peter Dionisopoulos is the owner and founder of Dynamic Performance & Rehab. He has worked with many high-level athletes and military personnel, but his true passion is to help active adults maintain their lifestyle by providing information and potential solutions to their aches and pains so they can continue with the activities they love.