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Should Youth Athletes Specialize in One Sport?

Written By Jayme Pantekoek | Published May 22nd 2022

This is a question I am asked a lot and think about myself as a parent of young athletes. From the perspective of an athletic performance coach, specializing in one sport is not ideal because each sport has different characteristics and one sport alone does not fulfill all of the characteristics needed to make well-rounded athletes.

Furthermore, doing sport-specific movements repetitively (think lateral skating movements in hockey or linear sprinting movements in soccer) can result in overuse and injury. It can also result in less power because the body is only using certain “tools” in the toolbox.


As a parent of youth athletes, though, I understand why so many young athletes today are focusing on a single sport. Athletics have become more competitive than ever, with year-round training and opportunities to compete — not only against other schools but other athletes at your same school for limited spots on teams. Youth and high school athletes have become extremely skilled, which is great and fun to watch as spectators. But even these skilled athletes can be missing important tools in their toolboxes that keep them healthy and build a foundation to reach their full potential.

In many cases, athletes with these missing “tools” don’t come to me until they are in high school and are having trouble with injuries or mechanics issues. It is much more difficult to round out the overuse and patterns that have been ingrained by their sport by this time. In some cases, it’s simply too late.

When it comes to sprinting, world-renowned speed development specialist Rolf Ohman explains that the highest limb speed an athlete will ever have occurs at the age of 12-13. After that, you cannot increase limb velocity anymore. That means, to some extent, you are stuck with the tools you have.

By the time an athlete reaches high school, they should already have the foundational tools of athleticism and movement in place and the focus should now be on building speed and power. When an athlete does not have the foundational tools in place by high school, they are left behind to focus on those shortcomings while their peers move on to become stronger and more powerful in their movements.

This scenario is the exact reason we offer our youth development training, which focuses on building and maintaining all of the foundational tools athletes need in their toolboxes. In our small group settings, we are able to cater to each athlete’s individual needs and focus on making sure they are doing movements that are the antithesis of their sport rather than over-using the same movements as many other “sport-specific” training programs have them doing.

Find out more about our comprehensive development training for youth athletes by clicking here or contacting Jayme Pantekoek.

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