Early Sport Specialization: Part 2

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sport specialization

 

Sport specialization the brief, but telling conclusion…

 

The study’s findings are relatively convincing.  The elite group tended to devote far less time at earlier ages in sport-specific training. 

 

Additionally, early Sport Specialization was found to be a likely predictor of classification as a near-elite athlete. 

 

In other words, while the early sport specialization may have been beneficial to overall performance, the athletes who tended to excel the most had instead focused on multilateral athletic development early in their growth and avoided the high technical skill, intensity, and specificity of unique sport preparation until such foundational skills were well established.

 

While not nearly as compelling as a longitudinal intervention or treatment-based design with actual measured outcomes, the study does further support the idea that early specialization might provide young athletes with an immediate or near immediate advantage over their slower-progressing LTAD counterparts. 

 

However, when considering outcome alone, this investigation supports the notion that the best outcomes over the span of a career were associated with the late specialization model.

 

 

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Sport Specialization Part 1

 

10 Responses

  1. Richie at Hex Training System says:

    Good to see some research evidence to support the LTAD model, thanks for bringing this to our attention.

    Do you know when/where this will/has been published? Interested to find out more about their definitions of early and late specialisation and multi-lateral athletic development?

    As you know many sporting organisations and governing bodies across the world have ‘adopted’ a long-term developmental approach to their training for young athletes but as most of these tend to be sport-specific organisations then the actual quality and quantity of multi-lateral athletic development can often be very questionable!!

  2. eyvel delgado says:

    curious…

  3. CJ says:

    As a parent of 4 boys and a former player and coach, my question or concern is how to give the boys the best opportunity to recognize their best sport as early as possible and then devote the necessary time of specialization to be competitive before college. I played one sport and had only one interest, my boys like to do it all. My concern is it doesn’allow for year round skill development. Am I thinking wrong?

  4. Dan Purpura says:

    I don’t think LTAD and skill work at an early age are mutually exclusive. Developing a young athlete over time through training speed, strength, etc. can be done along with or in the off season along with specific skill work for any sport.

    It doesn’t mean you do intense skill work year round, but learning the correct movements to perform skills such as throwing or hitting a baseball a few months prior to and in season can’t start early enough in my view.

    The longer you wait to develop skills the harder it is to correct bad habits developed at an early age. It’s a delicate balance to know when enough is enough and that’s where the art of coaching comes in. But layering LTAD on top of good skill coaching can help make some really nice things happen.

    The art of coaching is a cornerstone of the IYCA philosophy and can be applied to both LTAD and sport specific skill development.

  5. JR says:

    the study also doesn’t take into account overall athletic aptitude of the elite and near elite athletes. a number of elite athletes could be elite in a number of sports they are born that way. Everyone knows somebody that is good at any sport they play and when they decide to specialize they are usually one of the best.

    I am all for cross-training as different sports develop different muscles and coordinations and leads to overall better physical development which can help lessen the chance of injuries.

    I coach youth travel soccer and a lot of kids only want to play soccer, especially Hispanic kids, and some kids play basketball in the off season or wrestle – both great cross-training sports. unfortunately with kids so much more advanced these days, kids almost have to practice year-round or they can fall behind. Or at least work on simple things 1-2 weeks which can help them in their primary sport.

    Anotherdown-side are parents taking their kids to 3 or 4 different sports in the same season. I once had akid do a swim meet before an afternoon soccer game – think his performance may have been affected?

  6. inessa says:

    what’s the article exactly? Im curious to read it

  7. Toby Brooks says:

    Sorry, I included the source, but it didn’t get put into the post. Here it is:

    Moesch, K., Elbe, AM, Hauge, ML, & Wikman, JM. (2011). Late specialization: The key to success in centimeters, grams, or seconds (cgs) sports. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2011 Mar 15. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2010.01280.x. [Epub ahead of print]

    TB

  8. We are often mistaken concerning what sport a child has “aptitude” for. Quite often it is what he/she knows. Quite often it is what he/she has affinity for.

    This is akin to our mistaken assumption that kids who do well early are “talented”. Sometimes, this is true. But there are so many cases where the child was just advanced.

    I have said this before – but development is not linear. A non-linear process requires a non-linear approach. You must think like a child to properly teach a child.

    Further, it is NOT that serious that your child find their ultimate perfect sport. At least, not as serious as avoiding burnout, and having a well rounded life that includes time with friends and family, and adequate rest. Our obsession with reaching the pinnacle of sports achievement as the end all be all to a life is a fallacy. Did you know that it is far more likely for an athletically talented child who does well in school to get an academic scholarship vs. an athletic scholarship?

  9. Toby Brooks says:

    Hi All-

    I am sorry the reference did not get added to the post. The article is an ePub ahead of print, so it is likely out now or will be very soon. Here’s the reference:

    Moesch, K., Elbe, AM, Hauge, ML, & Wikman, JM. (2011). Late specialization: The key to success in centimeters, grams, or seconds (cgs) sports. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2011 Mar 15. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2010.01280.x. [Epub ahead of print]

    I am actually working on some sources currently that are what I refer to as “sports plus.” My children are both playing softball/baseball this summer and having a blast. However, I know that participating on the team and going to one or two practices/games per week is inadequate for them to develop optimally. To that end, we do “homework” which is really just dad “playing with a purpose” at least twice a week.

    I value the IYCA message (I am helping to write it, after all), but I also understand that as a parent, I want what is best for my child. The specialization bunch has established their expectation and standards pretty well. It is high time we LTAD’ers do the same.

    Toby Brooks, PhD, ATC, CSCS, YFS-3
    IYCA Director of Research & Education

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