You see a hint of Lionel Messi in your 5 year old kid at soccer practice. He is obviously gifted in soccer. His eyes light up whenever he sees a soccer ball.
Time to go ALL-IN on his soccer career?
Hold your horses. Even if you think he could go pro tomorrow, it might be worth keeping him in multiple sports. Here are 3 other factors to consider:
1. Cross Training
The more sports a kid is involved in early in their lives, the more opportunities they have to develop into an all-round athlete. Each sport focuses on a variety of techniques. When combined, the skills are highly transferable and complementary. Once kids develop their abilities across different sports, it is likely to see them doing even better in all of them.
Just look at the NFL 2017 Draft – 30 of the 32 first round picks were multi-sport athletes! One might argue that these kids are just naturally talented. The other more probable reason is that their skills learnt from each sport compounded into the realms of others.
2. Different Experiences
When playing multiple sports, kids get exposed to different environments. This trains them to be adaptable to a plethora of situations, be it in an individual sport or team sport context.
More importantly, sports at a young age can be a great means to develop long-lasting friendships (see ex-national rugby player Derek Chan’s interview here where he highlights this). Specializing in merely one sport deprives your kid of the opportunity to make more friends and expand his social circle.
3. More Injuries, Less Fun
According to a 2016 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, a risk of early specialization in any sport is over-use injury. Kicking a ball a thousand times a month can place exceptional duress on a kid’s lower limbs, especially if he has not reached puberty or developed sufficient muscles to withstand such impact.
Also, just because his eyes light up at the soccer practice that he goes once a week does not necessarily mean the light will still flicker if the soccer practice becomes a once-a-day routine. When training loses it fun and appeal, coupled with mounting pressure to perform, interest in the sport could be easily lost in an instant.
In a nutshell, sports should be kept fun for kids at a tender age. As they grow up, they will gain a deeper grasp of their interest and will naturally choose to pursue it further. Till then, let kids be kids and let them have an amazing time doing multiple sports and making multiple friends!
Do you agree? All thoughts and comments are welcome!