Early Specialization

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There was an interesting story in Tuesdays USA Today about Wes Welker Wide Receiver for the New England Patriots. He is undersized 5-9 185 and slow by NFL standards, but he is very good athlete. Guess what sport he played as a youth, yep that un-American sport of soccer. His college coach attributes a good degree of his success to the body control and footwork he learned in soccer. When you think about it really is not that remarkable. It is just another example of building a broad foundation of athletic development. The evidence is overwhelming is favor of building a good base of athletic movement skill, this is just one more prominent example. Why do coaches want kids to specialize earlier and do nothing but sport. Wouldn’t it be better to make the goal creating the best athlete possible by giving them a full toolbox of athletic skills, rather than locking them into a narrow range of movements? Athletically you have to earn your right to progress to the next level by learning the athletic alphabet and the multiplication tables, a sound foundation in athletic literacy so to speak. There is another dimension to early specialization that everyone seems to be ignoring, injuries. Not so much the injuries the injuries that occur when participating and training in youth sport, but the injuries that occur later because of the one dimensional movement patterns these athletes develop by doing years of the same movements. When they have to do something outside their skill set they get hurt. A good foundation of athletic literacy will armor them against these types of injuries. There are so many dimensions to the problem of early specialization that it would a book to address them all. Suffice to say that say that early specialization leads to early stagnation.
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Vern Gambetta

Vern Gambetta

Director at Gambetta Sports Training Systems
Vern is the Director of Gambetta Sports Training Systems. He has been the a conditioning coach for several MLS teams as well as the conditioning consultant to the US Men's World Cup Soccer team. Vern is the former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. He has lectured and conducted clinics in Canada, Japan, Australia and Europe and has authored six books and over one hundred articles related to coaching and sport performance in a variety of sports. He has a BA in teaching with a coaching minor and an MA in Education with an emphasis in physical education from Stanford University.
Vern Gambetta

@coachgambetta

Athletic Development Coach & Consultant. Founder of GAIN Network. Proud dad. Love to read everything.
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