Specializing Athletes

Today’s research shows differing opinions in regards to specialized training. Evidence can be used to argue both for and against such a training method. In my opinion, I believe a lot of it is up to the athlete and what they choose to do. If an athlete loves basketball and doesn’t like any other sport, then it’s really hard for them to focus and give a 100% effort in any sport other than basketball. However, playing multiple sports has great advantages, as it can develop parts of an athletes game that may not get developed in their first sport. Conversely, in sports with high level skill sets (such as hockey or wrestling), it is vital for athletes to get as much “ice” or “mat” time as possible over the course of a year as to not lose the skills they have developed. Facilities like our’s fill the void in an athlete’s game, just as Coach Mike Boyle (MBSC; Boston Mass.) talks about. In being a “Boyle Guy” for the past 17 years, we have grown to adopt about 85% of Coach Boyle’s system and EXOS in our own programing. This method of programming involves a well-rounded approach to developing Strength, Power, Mobility & Conditioning that every athlete needs to excel. A specialized athlete can develop over usage injuries due to specificity in their activities, which is a problem that we can help by hopefully reducing the threat of a possible serious injury. However, it is important to remember that we cannot prevent injury, as there are too many dynamics going on that are out of our control. What multiple sports can help with is exposing athletes to different movement patterns, which can help avoid a lot of over usage injuries (while not fool-proof, can benefit the athlete depending on sport). In conclusion, I feel that it may be important to play a multiple amount of sports at a young age (around 6-12 years) to explore the child’s interest. Then and only then will a parent and athlete know what is right for them. I think if a child were to specialize early on, then a well-rounded strength and conditioning program can “ fill in the gaps” that are missing when there is no involvement in multiple sports. I truly believe that if an athlete goes into every practice & game with passion and purpose, they will be successful in that sport and in life.