So Much for Early Specialization


I am a big Tiger Woods fan. Not a big golf fan but, a fan of the man who changed how everyone trains for the game of golf. However, I hate the idea that everyone believes putting a club in little Tigers hands at age three was the key. People love to point this fact out as they torture their own children with early specialization. 

Guess what? Two weeks ago  Tiger lost to an athlete who started golfing at 19. He was actually working at a driving range in South Korea. It didn’t matter that he didn’t start at age 3 or 4 or 5. Something else mattered, probably talent. Interestingly enough the Long Term Development Model currently becoming so popular in so many sports shows clearly that early specialization is actually a detriment to long term development. The folks at TPI ( the go to guys in golf fitness) are currently using a model that discourages the concept of giving clubs to three year olds. The first stage of development is actually supposed to be FUN. 

Just want to take a moment to point out that you don’t have to start in the crib to be good at something. I always tell the parents I deal with that there may be thousands of kids who hate their parents for every Tiger Woods or Maria Sharapova.

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16 Responses to “So Much for Early Specialization”

  1. mboyle1959 Says:

    Steve- email mindie@ryanlee.com

  2. I’m familiar with the LTDM. The link needs to be fixed, I think. By the way, I tried to re-up to the forum yesterday but I can’t remember what email I used when I originally joined. Can you help me with that, Mike, or put me in touch with someone who can? Thanks.

  3. Personally I think you should put a small club in a kids hands at 3 if you like the game, and then let him be a kid with it! Let him run, jump, laugh, and play as many things as possible, and in due time let the chips fall wherever they may/whatever makes the child/adolescent enjoy getting up in the morning.

    People back in the “old days” had it right when sports were treated as more of a hodgepodge/smorgasbord as opposed to a one-course meal. Exposure to as many different things seems like the best policy…………………and innate greatness has a way of revealing itself in due time. For the rest of us we can enjoy the fruits of having been introduced to a wide array of activities.

    And who knows, perhaps many a potential world-class athlete (or artist/musician/fill in the blank) was “wasted” by over-zealous parents who tried to pigeon-hole the child into their sport of choice instead of letting him find his own way.

  4. mboyle1959 Says:

    I’ll just have to respectfully disagree. Talk a look at the LTD info.

  5. I didn’t miss your point. I disagreed with it (in part). I’m not denying that Tiger is a supremely talented golfer, I’m saying that talent + early specialization = dominance. How good would Yang have been had he started earlier?

  6. mboyle1959 Says:

    You clearly miss the point. Tigers dominance has nothing to do with early specialization in my opinion, it has to do with talent. Tiger probably would have been a fine linebacker at Stanford had his Dad been an NFL player. Look at him.

  7. Yang’s victory is poor evidence in the case against early specialization, in my opinion. Yang got lucky. Tiger Woods beats him 9 rounds out of 10. His absolute domination of the game is the direct result, I believe, of his early specialization. I am by no means advocating it but to say that Tiger is simply more talented I think misses the bigger picture. There are a lot of talented guys on tour but none have shown the consistency of Tiger Woods.

  8. Mike,
    Amen brother. I have preached the same gospel you mentioned for years. Hard sell in some cases. Many have also perverted the old Soviet/Eastern Bloc model into something it wasn’t: it was more geared toward developing overall athleticism and no specialization until the athlete was well into their teens. Exceptions were sports like gymnastics and skating. Good Blog.
    Bruce Kelly

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