by Dr. Toby Brooks
Sports Skill Acquisition
As a lover of all things sport since a child, my entire life has been shaped by decisions motivated primarily by how I might continue to play or be involved in competitive athletics. It might come as little surprise, then, that my most recent (and with any luck final) professional relocation to work at Texas Tech University was at least partially motivated by a desire to provide additional athletic opportunities for my children should they choose to play sports, too. Compared to my family’s previous home, west Texas provides significantly better opportunities, coaching, and facilities for most team sports, and Lubbock also affords access to other potential athletic exposures simply not possible where we lived before. Simply put, should my kids decide to play or compete in just about anything short of surfing, Lubbock offers them a better chance to maximize their abilities. And so far, they have both taken a liking to softball (daughter Brynnan, age 7) and baseball (son Taye, age 4).
That said, in my role as the IYCA’s Director of Education, as a scholar, and as an athletic trainer and a strength and conditioning specialist, I have staked my reputation behind the simple belief that early sport specialization is detrimental to the long-term success of most developing athletes. Despite the growing trend of professional level coaching, year round travel and elite teams, and high dollar training centers catered specifically for youth, I believe that the science supports multilateral skill acquisition over early specialization any day. How can I then espouse such beliefs on one hand yet subject my own children to the very same well intentioned yet subtly misguided behaviors on the others? The short answer is I don’t.