A Different Approach To U.S. Sports Specialization Trends


Bildnummer: 04030287 Datum: 11.11.2007 Copyright: imago/Jochen Tack..Jugendgolfer mit erwachsenem Freizeitgolfer auf dem Ruhrpott Golfplatz Jacobi auf einem ehemaligen Zechengelände; Vdig, quer, Mann, männlich, Golfer, Golfspieler, Anlage, Golfplatz, Golfanlage, Hobbygolfer, Hobbygolf, Aufmacher, Kind, Junge, Jugend, Nachwuchs, Jugendgolfer, Nachwuchsgolfer, Kindersport, Zeche Golf 2007, Freizeit, Freizeitsport, Freizeitsportler, Freizeitgolf, Oberhausen Golfclub Red Golf RedGolf Golfklub Golf Herren Einzel Deutschland Totale Aktion Werbemotiv Personen Sportstätte....Image number 04030287 date 11 11 2007 Copyright imago Jochen Tack with Recreational golfers on the Ruhrpott Golf course Jacobi on a former Vdig horizontal Man male Golfers Golfer Asset Golf course Golf course Amateur golfer Amateur golf Highlight Child Boy Youth Offspring Junior golfers Children sport Colliery Golf 2007 Leisure leisure sports Recreational athletes Leisure Golf Oberhausen Golf Club Red Golf RedGolf Golf club Golf men Singles Germany long shot Action shot Highlight Human Beings venues Photo via Newscom

In Aurora's The Beacon-News Jim Owczarski takes a unique look at the current trend of sports specialization in his article Swimming Upstream

Jim's piece focuses on Lou Solarte's (PGA golf instructor) "push back" against this trend by emphasizing the development of athleticism within athletes in his "junior programs at Hilton Indian Lakes Resort in Bloomingdale and his 5 Tool Baseball Academy in Naperville."

It's not that Solarte is against specialization in whole but at what age it is occurring (too young) and at the exclusion of developing the athlete completely. His concern centers on the fact that basic movements are not being learned, which narrows the ultimate potential level that the athlete can reach. Basically, that early specialization at the exclusion of playing or doing other sports is self-limiting. 

WILLIAMSPORT, PA - AUGUST 24:  Peyton McLemore #18 of the Southwest bats against pitcher Takumi Ozeki #18 of Japan during the Little League World Series Consolation game at Volunteer Stadium on August 24, 2008 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Japan defeated the Southwest 4-3.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Similar in point to views portrayed against specialization in my three-part series, Specialization in Youth Sports, Good or Bad?, Solarte states in the article: 

"Kids that specialize too early don't tend to develop to their highest level. When I look at kids at the baseball academy, they can't do basic movements. They can't do a pushup or have any sensory awareness or balance. A lot of the kids are really poorly coordinated. It was just mind numbing."

In addition, Solarte details his objectives:

"We develop kids' athleticism first but in conjunction with their golf skills. What's happening with kids in our society today is a good majority of them just don't know how to move. What we're finding is we can just get a lot more out of them if we can teach them basic movement skill training. Their golf gets better, their baseball gets better."

This is something I wholeheartedly agree with. It is not necessarily that sports specialization in and of itself is bad but to do so at too young of an age, and at the exclusion of complete athleticism development, is what we really should be discouraging.

Sounds good to me, your thoughts???


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  • Kirk,

    What age does he say it us okay to start specializing?

  • Kris,

    He doesn't say exactly, which I think is a good thing. This is likely due to the difference in sports in general. You know, one may need to specialize in say tennis or gymnastics earlier than say a basketball or football player might. The only indication in the article is this statement: "Solarte says most of the world's top golfers focused only on golf at 12 or 13 at the earliest and at the end of high school at the latest."

    This really does not give the answer and is relative only to golf. Me personally, in general, I would say sometime in high school - but that would also depend on the kid, the sport, and what they themselves are looking to get out of the experience (their goals).

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