Young Athletes: When is it Time to Start Specializing Your Training?

When making a decision on when to begin specializing a young athlete’s training regimine, consider a few things:
Most research on the subject has shown that;
1)Early specialization leads to rapid improvement, with performance peaks at age 15 or 16
2)Early specialization tends to lead to inconsistent athletic performance
3) Early specialization leads to burnout often by the age of 18
4)Early specialization often leads to injury because of rapid improvement without physical readiness (immature physique)
In contrast, what is termed “multilateral development” (Bompa, Periodization) or training involving no set skill or specialization, but  general athletic improvement through a variety of modalities and training methods, leads to:
1)Slower improvement, but peaks in athletic performance past the age of 18 when the athlete is physiologically ready for the adaptations
2)Consistent and progressive improvements in performance
3)A longer athletic career
4)Fewer injuries due to progress when the athlete is physiologically and psychologically mature
In summation, don’t rush specialization in the training program of a young athlete.  Focus on refining a variety of basic human movement patterns and generalizing the training program to improve in a wide scope of athletic movement.  Most successful college and professional athletes peak at the right time due to a background in training which involves a variety of sports and training methods as opposed to specializing in only one athletic endeavor at an early age.
For more information on athletic performance enhancement, contact Emerge Fitness Training and speak to one of the many certified strength and conditioning specialists.
Matt Pirtle, MA, CSCS