Sport specialization is becoming a significant health and wellness problem in the pediatric population. There is strong evidence in the literature suggesting that children competing in only one sport may hinder their motor skill development and affect their lifelong enjoyment of future recreational activities. Whether it is the little league baseball player, the junior swimmer, the level 8 gymnast or any other team or individual athlete, the evidence is becoming quite clear that sport specialization is not turning out better athletes and can have many deleterious effects as well.
Allowing our children to select those activities they enjoy and providing them with opportunities for free unstructured play has been shown to improve and diversify motor skill development. Encouraging well rounded activities emphasizing aerobic, strength and general conditioning in a cyclical manner will help prepare children for recreational or competitive sport participation. For children who do self-select single sports, close monitoring of activities and behaviours that may indicate overtraining, burnout or overuse injury is important.
Competitive sports can and should still be fun for those children interested in more than just participation. Providing a safe and healthy training plan falls to parents and coaches to ensure that proper motor and interpersonal skills development occurs with the avoidance of overuse and high risk injuries.