Early Sport Specialization: Considerations for Consultants in Youth Sports

David Udelf, Becker, Udelf, and Associates, USA
Michael Zito, Montclair State University, USA
William Russell, Missouri Western State University, USA

Theme: Youth sport

Program ID: WKSP-07

Presentation: October 2, 2013 2:15 pm - 3:15 pm

Room: Elmwood


Abstract: A recent trend in youth sports has been early sport specialization, defined as year-round training in one sport at the elimination of other activities (Wiersma, 2000). Many people believe early specialization increases the odds of college scholarships and professional athletic careers. Research, however, does not support this as a likely outcome in most cases. Furthermore, this research demonstrates that “specializers” may be at greater risk for physical, psychological, and developmental issues such as anxiety, injury, social isolation, burnout, and dropout. These negative outcomes may be minimized under certain circumstances especially when the “specializer’s” participation is self-determined and not overly influenced by others. Consultants play a crucial role in the education of relevant adults regarding specialization. Therefore, the primary goal of this workshop is to provide participants with strategies and information to educate youth coaches, parents, and administrators about the influences of and outcomes from specialization practices. Through interactive discussion and case scenarios participants will learn applications from the Developmental Model of Sport Participation (Cote, 1999) and how to help create positive youth sport environments where athletes’ decisions are self-determined, and other methods that mitigate the negative effects of early specialization. Attendees will also be familiarized with issues associated with early sport specialization, and interventions that can limit specialization difficulties. Workshop learning objectives will be achieved via presentation and small-group discussion exercises, and include: (1) identifying advantages and disadvantages of early youth-sport specialization, (2) understanding reasons why youth specialize (3) learning techniques to work with children and families encountering specialization issues (4) developing awareness of motivational climates that enhances the intrinsic motivation in youth athletes, as well as the overall early sports specialization experience, (5) and illustrating early youth-sport specialization issues with examples encountered by sports psychology professionals. Handouts will include power point slides and case scenarios.

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