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Colonial Heights Soccer Association

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How Barcelona Spurs Stars

FYI-Article on specialization.

These days, kids as young as 7 have begun specializing in one sport. That means that they are practicing the sport year-round to boost their performance- not just for the fun of it.

Such early specialization--and specialization in general--has its drawbacks, says Greg Chertok, a sport & exercise psychology consultant.

Kids who start specializing at such an early age run the risk of over-training, burnout and overuse injuries, he says.

It's important for young athletes to take a few days a week off or a few months a year, he says. But that's not happening. It's up to parents to ensure kids are playing sports in ways that don't hurt them, he adds.

Instead of encouraging young kids to specialize, Chertok suggest that parents encourage them to participate in different sports. He calls this "sampling."

"You want to establish a range of motor and cognitive experiences, and give them different social options," he says. "It's been established that early sampling can improve kids' life skills, time management, communication and leadership skills," he says.

What's more, kids who take part in more than one sport are exposed to positive values such as respect in different environments, driving home important life lessons.

But that's not the only reason to be cautious about kids who specialize in one sport. Their identity can get wrapped up in how well they perform in that sport, cautions Chertok.

"Some kids invest 100% of their identity into one sport," he says. If they perform badly, it hurts their self-esteem, he adds.

"There's a big difference between saying, 'I'm a baseball player," as opposed to 'I play baseball,'" Chertok says.