First of all..... HAPPY 4th of JULY!!!!! I hope all of you get to enjoy a couple cold beers, greasy cheeseburgers, and good friends and family. It is truly a great holiday, and there's nothing like it here in San Diego.
Recently I've been reading and listening a lot of Brian Grasso's work. Brian Grasso is a fantastic coach and leader who is leading a movement to create a more active and healthier lifestyle for our youth. He is all about developing are youth to have fun when exercising and to develop overall athletic skills rather than specialization. Last year I was fortunate enough to meet Brian briefly and also hear his presentation on youth athletics. One funny and insightful analogy has stuck with me since then that I will mention later in the post.
In today's world of highly competitive sports, people come enamored with the next prodigy. Tiger Woods, Lebron James, Sidney Crosby, and now Bryce Harper are all incredibly gifted athletes who started at a young age and put an unreal amount of practice hours honing their craft. Then it gets published in a book or Sports Illustrated and now every parent has their kid in golf lessons and on AAU teams at the age of 6 seeing if their kid is next. What these parents don't realize is that these guys are absolute genetic freaks and would probably be good at their sport no matter when they started. These guys are also fantastic overall athletes who can play multiple sports, you just only see one, and for one of them their are probably 100's if not 1,000's of players who burnt out trying to specialize that early.
Early specialization of athletes is killing overall athletics. Kids today often play one sport 3-4 seasons. The kid might love the sports but if you were like me one week you were a professional football player and the next week you were a fireman. Parents often have selective listening and hear their kid loves to play baseball, and now the rest of their life revolves around the sport. The problem is with this is that kids aren't small adults, they are KIDS! They want to play games with their friends and ride bikes.
Say your kid was very good at math and liked it as well. Would you take him out of english, history, science, and P.E. because he said he liked it? Oh and since he's good we can throw him into calculus in 1st grade because he's gifted and will pick it up. NO! Kids need to develop their whole body and mind and that young age when they are just sponges. Let them participate in multiple activities and keep it fun. This was the analogy that has stuck with me ever since. It is so basic yet so right on (chya brah!).
The analogy between parents trying to create the next Lebron and school is perfect. You get down the basics at young ages and let them develop everything at once. Then as they get older and find what they really love, they have all the tools in their tool box rather than just a hammer. I've had some of these crazed parents come in talking about all of the stuff their kid is doing and all I can think of is they will burn out and peak before they even turn 18 and resent the sport they should love playing.
By all means push your kids to be great and do active things, but think of it like school and teach multiple skills that could improve them in the long term. Sports like swimming, gymnastics, martial arts, soccer, basketball, etc. are fun and will develop overall athletic skills that they can use when they decide to narrow it down to their favorite game.
Below is another great article written by a journalist is Seattle that I think every parent should read.
Parents in Sports