Whether you have a son or daughter, options for youth sports have become divided into specialty travel team versus recreation league — and if kids should play one or multiple sports — with parents and experts on both sides.
Not all children who play sports are the same.
According to an American Academy of Pediatrics clinical report from Joel S. Brenner, Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, “Early specialization programs are designed to produce elite-level athletes, as opposed to early diversification programs, which focus on the long-term needs of children through enjoying various activities and play.”
However, the report states, “Sports specialization appears to have increased overall, along with earlier onset, because select or travel leagues start as young as age 7.”
For most parents — even me, a crazy sports mom with two boys playing travel, recreation and elite sports — it’s known that making it to the big show might not happen.
Rather, the aim is for kids who play sports to always have fun, learn and try new skills, play at the right developmental level — not just in one sport, but maybe a few — and then you can see what the future holds.
In fact, in a report titled “Overuse Injuries, Overtraining, and Burnout in Child and Adolescent Athletes,” Brenner states, “Well-rounded, multisport athletes have the highest potential to achieve the goal of lifelong fitness and enjoyment of physical activity while avoiding some of the pitfalls of overuse, overtraining, and burnout.”
For parents who are thinking of moving their kids to a specialty team and those who are just getting started with a sports sign-up, the most important thing is to keep the conversation going about choices and be open to any possibility if something changes, whether it’s in their sports or another activity.
“The ultimate goal of youth participation in sports should be to promote lifelong physical activity, recreation, and skills of healthy competition that can be used in all facets of future endeavors,” Brenner says.