Early Specialization Rant #1


I believe that we have a lesser pool of true athletes at the very same time the gene pool continues to improve. Through natural selection, better per & post natal health care, etc, we bring healthier, more gifted children into the world but from day 1, poor parental decisions and later on, the individual’s poor choices, are detrimental from an athletic development standpoint. The race to get little Jimmy or Janey to walk rather than crawl, progresses to throwing them into Super-elite, Traveling Team, All-Star, Regional Select Soccer programs at age 5 which then leads to hiring a personal trainer because they are falling behind by age 6. Too often this trail of tears leads to the final nail in the coffin, the discovery of the one game that is not strictly regimented and parent-coached, NINTENDO.

Drive through a residential neighborhood take note of how few kids are running around in dynamic, unstructured play? For example, how successful has the US been in International Basketball as of late? Do we really believe that our little Air Jordan’s are going to develop a foundation to provide for their later success when they play (say at age 12) in a game where zone defenses don’t teach man to man defense skills but simply how to occupy space. Worse still, by employing a zone there is no offense because the little girls & boys cant drive the lane packed with zone defenders and they are too little to heave up 20 footers.

The biggest issue in training athletes today is the poor quality of the best intentions of many adults working with our youth. This is much of why coaches working with colligates have to waste time in remediation due to the lack of basic athletic competencies. Pick a random youth – teen – HS athlete and ask them to skip or gallop? Got a blank stare? Now take something that they do well athletically and see how well they perform the same skill bi-laterally. Jimmy or Janey has a shelf full of trophies at home but struggles with the basic biomotor skills. The cut-backs to Physical Education in our schools is also of huge concern here.
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