Archive for Early specialization

Another Great Read on Early Sport Specialization

Posted in Guest Authors, Strength Coach Podcast, StrengthCoach.com Updates, Training, Uncategorized, Youth Training with tags , on January 26, 2016 by mboyle1959

The folks at CONQA Sport posted a great blog about the dangers of early specialization. Really well written.

The Biggest Gamble in Elite Sport

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The Evidence is Overwhelming

Posted in Guest Authors, Hockey, MBSC News, Strength Coach Podcast, StrengthCoach.com Updates, Training, Training Females, Youth Training with tags , , on January 6, 2016 by mboyle1959

I keep posting these articles in hopes that parents will realize how foolish they are to have a child that only plays one sport.

Joe Nieuwendyk was a two sport star in college. The article talks about how Nieuwendyk’s  lacrosse skilled helped him become a Hall of Famer.

http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=601349

Great Stuff From the Guys at Changing the Game Project

Posted in Guest Authors, Hockey, Injuries, Strength Coach Podcast, StrengthCoach.com Updates, Training, Training Females, Youth Training with tags on December 16, 2015 by mboyle1959

I DID NOT WRITE THIS. It is from the guys at Changing the Game Project. However, I do agree. My daughter went from town sports, to a select hockey team at 12 to a full college scholarship at 15. What these guys say works. My daughter did not play in a summer hockey tournament until the week before her 13th birthday. She had never been to Canada to play etc. However, she had excelled at town hockey, town soccer, and local summer swimming and diving. In addition, she had won a state judo championship. My 10 year old son plays hockey, baseball, lacrosse, flag football and rec basketball. Most of these are very inexpensive and provide great fun and great competition.

5 Ways Youth Sports gets the Math All Wrong

 
1.Youth Sports Costs Way Too Much, Way Too Soon: We are creating barriers to entry to sports that should have very few. Soccer, for example, needs a round object and some space to play. Instead, we have tryouts, “elite” clubs and travel teams for 6-7 year olds. Author Mark Hyman phrases it perfectly in the title of his great book about the cost of youth sports, The Most Expensive Game in Town. It costs thousands of dollars plus travel for some kids to play a sport that could almost be free. I am not saying that tryouts, travel, and high-level, long distance competition do not have a place in the game, but not before age 12 at the earliest. Local play and town leagues are disappearing. And worst, we have ramped up the pressure on parents to pay, coaches to produce, and kids to perform. As former NFL punter turned college professor Travis Dorsch has found in his research, our kids are acutely aware of the money we spend on sports, and it adds pressure, and takes away enjoyment for them.
2. Youth Sports Makes Poor Use of Our Kids’ Time (and Ours): Let’s compare the average day of pickup games/free play to today’s hyper-organized sporting scene. In other words, lets look at the return on investment in time.
In a pickup/free play environment, a child might walk 10 minutes on a Saturday to the park or pond to meet with friends. They organize teams and play, taking breaks every once in a while to change teams, get a drink, eat, etc. Six hours later, the child goes home. His 6.5 hour investment yields about 5.5 hours of child directed sport.
Now take our highly organized environment. A child gets in the car at 9am, and drives ninety minutes to his travel game. He arrives a minimum of one hour prior to kickoff, and a warm up commences 30 minutes prior to game time. He plays a 60 minute game, and for arguments sake he plays 40 minutes (a hockey team with 3 lines might yield 20 minutes of play or less with a coach who does not think every kid needs to play.) The coach/team spends 30 minutes changing and debriefing after the game, the player grabs a bite to eat, and he arrives home two hours later. A 5.5 hour investment of time, for one hour of play.
In a nutshell, instead of spending the vast majority of his day at play, making rules, calling fouls, playing fearlessly, and involved in self-directed learning, our kids spend most of it in a car (and so do we). We pay a lot more for a lot less time on task.
3. Ratio of Games vs. Training: Games and competitive matches certainly have their place, but our overemphasis on competition, especially at the youngest ages, is detrimental on two fronts.
First, our current environment yields a ratio of one game for one practice in many sports, which is not ideal. A well run hour of baseball practice might get every player a few dozen swings, and dozens of attempts at throwing, catching and fielding. A one-hour game might see him get 8-10 swings, and depending upon position, 3-10 additional touches of the ball. I cannot think of a sport where an athlete does not get more reps in training. Yet, at the critical ages of development, where kids need as many touches and attempts as possible, we are choosing to play competitive games that give them very few, instead of practice that will help develop technical mastery. Why do we play so many games? According to former NBA player turned youth sports advocate Bob Bigelow, “Adults want to win; kids want to play. That’s the difference. The more adult needs you add to these sports, the more adult vision, the more adult needs have to be met.”
Second, and I think this is critical; our massive emphasis on tournament play is developing slow players. Three-time World Cup soccer coach Raymond Verheijan, one of the world’s experts on periodization, training and injury prevention, first stated this idea to me. “Think about it,” he said. “In your first tournament game, everyone plays full speed, 100%. But your second game of the day, you are at 90% because of fatigue. Your third and fourth game of the weekend, you are at 80% speed. If you make the final, everyone is tired, sore, carrying injuries, and playing 70-80% of full speed. Not only are your players increasingly susceptible to injury, but in four out of your five games, they have played at a slower speed due to fatigue. Your players are rarely playing at maximum pace or making maximum decisions per minute. In a mental game like soccer, they are learning over and over to play slowly.”
4. The Age of Specialization is Way Too Young: I have written articles on this subject, and the book “Is it Wise to Specialize” so if you want more on this topic click the links. Until there is compelling science, and not simply outlier, one-in-a million examples like “look at Tiger” to show that early specialization is a better path for player development, I believe the science shows that the multi-sport pathway prior to age 12 gives your child the best chance of long term success. Outside of female figure skating and gymnastics, playing a single sport prior to the age of 12, especially when it is the decision of the parent or coach, and not the athlete, only serves to decrease ownership, enjoyment and intrinsic motivation, while increasing the risk of burnout and injury. Let your kids play multiple sports, and help them find their passion instead of trying to determine it for them.
5. Talk About College Sports Starts Too Young: As evident by the letter I received from the mom quoted above, too many coaches and parents are talking about scholarships at an age they should be talking about love of the game and developing excellence. As the mom noted, her daughter had no idea what she wanted to study, where she wanted to go to school, and likely had been to very few college campuses, yet she was being told “commit soon or else.” I have yet to meet a college coach, especially on the women’s side where the problem seems exacerbated, that likes this current system of evaluating and recruiting middle schoolers, and committing scholarships to kids 3-5 years before they will ever step on campus. Yet they also feel powerless to stop. As a result, we have a generation of college athletes heading to schools that are not the best fit, majoring in subjects they have little interest in, and transferring at a very high rate.
Its time to get the math right in youth sports. don’t you think? Here are a few steps to do so that will make it better for our kids, and better for the adults as well:
Do not force, or be forced, into having your child specialize too early. The evidence supports a multi-sport pathway.
Have your child play one sport per season, and play it with full effort and commitment.
Do not be in a hurry to get on the team that travels the farthest, or collects all the best players as soon as possible. Save your money and time until your child’s ability and desire demands it, and your family and finances can support it. Performance prior to puberty is not a great indicator of performance after it.
Find local free play opportunities, take your child and friends to the park, and let them play. Have your kids play futsal, or 3v3, do tumbling and martial arts, and build those hours on task through more efficiently through child-centered fun.
Look for quality of competition, not just quantity. Don’t be mesmerized by the coach that tells you about all the games they play, and all the tournaments they go to. Find a coach and club that talks about how much they practice, and how much every player gets to play and how they develop on their own time frame.
Stop talking about college sports too soon. Worry about your child becoming a good player, and developing a burning desire to play. College sports are hard, and demand a ton of time;, if sport is a job and not a passion, they won’t make it. Yes, some schools and sports want early commitments, but they also want great players. If your child is good, and patient, chances are she will find a school that is a much better fit then one she was in a hurry to commit to 3-4 years prior.
Let’s hit the reset button, and get the math right. Let’s start investing our precious time wisely, and our precious dollars in the right things, and at the right time. We can make the math work.
Our kids need us to.

Jacob deGrom Didn’t Specialize

Posted in Injuries, MBSC News, Random Thoughts, Strength Coach Podcast, StrengthCoach.com Updates, Training with tags , on October 16, 2015 by mboyle1959

As I watched Jacob deGrom last night I asked myself “who is this kid”?

I’m so glad I did a little research as we see again that specialization is not necessary.

A few things about Jacob deGrom from Wikipedia:

  • Not drafted out of high school
  • Played exclusively at shortstop his freshman and sophomore seasons in college
  • First pitched as junior reliever in 2009
  • That year continued to play short and close

So for all you moms and dads running little Johnnie off to his pitching lesson, take a breath.

PS- John Lackey also did not pitch until he got to PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL. To busy playing quarterback in football.

Be Careful With Advice from Armchair Experts

Posted in MBSC News, Strength Coach Podcast, StrengthCoach.com Updates, Training, Training Females, Uncategorized, Youth Training with tags on March 21, 2015 by mboyle1959

“He who seeks the counsel of fools is a fool himself”

This is a cautionary tale. Be careful with taking advice from your son or daughters youth sport coach. Although today’s example comes from the hockey world, bad advice in youth sports is probably more common than good advice.

Please note: I have the utmost respect for most youth sport coaches. My kids have been lucky to have some great ones. With that said, I have also heard and continue to hear some real horror stories. Here’s the latest. 

PS- This a direct quote from an email I received from a former BU athlete. I did not edit this. Please also note, the following advice was given to the parents of a 2007 birth year child, yes a seven year old.

“A lot of parents have asked me what their child can do to become a better player. It starts in the spring and the summer. Hockey is a 12 month sport. If you “put the bag away” I can guarantee you to expect being at the bottom level of whatever team your child makes next year. Kids get better by playing more. If anyone tells you otherwise they do not know the game. I am proud to be apart of program that offers as many opportunities as this one does to have your child on the ice as much as possible. ”

 

The advice above is absolute insanity that runs contrary to every piece of research we have seen. This guy is 100% wrong. A seven year old should absolutely “put the bag away” and play soccer, lacrosse or baseball in the spring. Please do your homework. Early specialization is the biggest mistake you can make. There are at least 10 blog posts on this site from great coaches and great athletes espousing the direct opposite advice this “coach” is giving. If your child is seven, I beg you, please “put the bag away”.

 

Will My Kid Fall Behind Without Playing Summer Hockey?

Posted in Guest Authors, Training, Training Females, Youth Training with tags , on March 9, 2015 by mboyle1959

THIS IS A MUST READ FROM MY FRIEND MICHELLE AMIDON AT USA HOCKEY!

 

Q: Will my kid fall behind without playing spring and summer hockey?
A: Likely not, and more importantly, your child will enjoy greater success in the long run if they avoid playing year-round hockey now.
Even NHL players and Olympians take extended time away from the ice in the summer. It’s an essential component of their recovery, development and maintenance of high-level play. For children, that time away from hockey is even more important. Year-round hockey programming harms young skaters emotionally, physically and athletically, yet, many parents and coaches claim that early specialization is necessary to become an elite hockey player. It’s simply not true. USA Hockey, the United States Olympic Committee, countless high-level coaches and numerous physiologists will tell you that early specialization actually limits and damages prospective hockey players, reducing their chances of becoming the cream of the crop.
So what exactly is early specialization? It’s when a player, prior to puberty, focuses all of his or her time on one sport in hopes of increasing or accelerating skill development. It may sound like a logical route to more skill development, but research and anecdotal evidence indicates the contrary.
Young kids have short attention spans that limit the amount of time they can focus and perform repetitions correctly. Participating in multiple sports allows these young athletes to learn a variety of motor skills, hone them efficiently and increase their physical literacy. It teaches them diverse movement patterns, varied skill sets and cognitive understanding of game sense. Taking a long-term holistic view, it also puts them on a path toward a lifetime of real-world physical fitness, because they’ve developed the ability, confidence and habits to be competent in multiple physical activities. For the 99 percent of youth athletes that don’t become professional athletes, this varied fitness foundation helps them enjoy the camaraderie and health benefits of an active lifestyle in adulthood.
Another benefit of playing multiple sports is a reduction in overuse injury risk. Sports medicine doctors are seeing a substantial increase in overuse injuries among children and early specialization is a major contributor. These players are getting injured before they even have a chance to develop physically. Calls for change are coming from the hockey world all over the sporting community, including from Major League Baseball and USA Baseball, which recently launched a Pitch Smart initiative aimed at reducing these kinds of injuries brought on by early specialization and overuse.
Early specialization is also increasing the psychological burnout rate among children, eliminating many from the game before they even hit their athletic prime. Among those who hang on despite the burnout, there’s an indifference to their game that caps potential.
Adults get caught up in allowing or pushing their little ones to play one sport for a number of reasons. They might be scared that their child will fall behind. They might push them simply because the kids are good at it and see immediate skill improvements and love the results. However, athletic development is a long process, and sport-specific skill development is only one piece. In order to be a great player, one must be an athlete first. And it’s important to remember that, especially in hockey, the “great” 10U player won’t automatically be the “great” player in years to come, when it actually matters and the stakes are higher. Skills and sense transfer from sport to sport. Overall athleticism matters. Hunger matters. Energy matters. Recovery matters. Early specialization impairs all of this, limiting athletes’ potential for long-term success. The goal should not be to produce the best 10-year-old, but to cultivate healthy children instead, and give them an opportunity to thrive in high school athletics, college athletics and beyond. It’s hard to trust it as a parent, when those around you seem to be submitting to early specialization, but take heart in the following:
The U.S. Olympic Committee recently published a report based on a survey distributed to nearly 2,000 Olympic athletes. The results indicated that the vast majority of Olympians did not specialize in their sport until very late in their development, and even then, some continued to participate in other sports.

Average number of sports played among Olympians (by age)
Age                                   Average Number of Sports Played
10-and-under                3.11
10-14                               2.99
15-18                               2.2
19-22                              1.27
22-and-older                1.31

These findings indicate that Olympians were involved in an average of three sports per year until age 14, which contradicts the notion that early specialization is critical to long-term athletic success. Multi-sport play appeared to be beneficial to these Olympians.
Similar findings come from the NHL. When asked, “How old were you when you started to specialize (only play and train) in hockey?” here is what some of our American NHL players reported:
Player                              NHL Team                 Age of Specialization
Craig Anderson              Ottawa Senators             High School
David Backes                  St. Louis Blues                18
Beau Bennett                 Pittsburgh Penguins       15
Dustin Brown                Los Angeles Kings           16
John Gibson                  Anaheim Ducks                15
Jimmy Howard             Detroit Red Wings          15
Trevor Lewis                  Los Angeles Kings          15
Jonathan Quick            Los Angeles Kings           17
Brandon Saad               Chicago Blackhawks       15

The football world also weighed in with evidence contradicting the perceived benefits of early specialization. ESPN surveyed 128 NFL quarterbacks – 73 active, 55 retired – and 95 percent of them played multiple sports in high school. Nearly 70 percent of them played three sports or more. There were only five active NFL quarterbacks who reported that they were single-sport specialists, and each of them was a backup quarterback.
Bottom line, mounting evidence shows no benefit to young athletes specializing in a single sport. Even more alarming, they have a greater risk of repetitive-use injury, they experience more burnout and they miss out on the advantages that playing multiple sports can give them.
So, encourage your kids to try different sports and to have fun while they are doing it.

Become a Better Player by Not Playing!

Posted in Guest Authors, Hockey, Injuries, MBSC News, Strength Coach Podcast, StrengthCoach.com Updates, Training, Training Females, Youth Training with tags on February 25, 2015 by mboyle1959

Confusing headline? I hope it makes you read this.

Athletes Are Made In the Off-Season

If your child is a hockey player from 6-15 PLEASE don’t sign them up for spring and summer leagues! The only people who need spring and summer leagues are rink operators and league operators. ALL THE EVIDENCE SAYS NO.

Athletes Are Made In the Off_Season