Sports Specialization Athletes are choosing one sport to train in to become great Samuel Webster


Burnout- When an athlete becomes frustrated with a certain sport they quit the sport

Hyper-competitive- very strong, close, competition

Overhead sport- sports such as baseball, softball, volleyball, swimming, gymnastics, tennis. These sports put a lot of stress on your shoulders and elbows.

Overuse- To focus on one thing to achieve maximum potential

Scholarship- To have a school pay for your education because they want you for sports or other various reasons

Specialization- To focus on one thing to achieve maximum potential

How popular has high school sports specialization become in the past years?

Specialization has become popular because it offers a high school athlete to become an elite player in their sport and this entices athletes to do so, in fact, youth sports participation has gone from to 41 million athletes to 60 million in the past 10 years, also specialization has risen 42% according to an investigation done by WKBT TV. As we see more and more athletic participation, we also see more and more specialization and this is caused by athletes wanting to do what is best for them. Also a fact stated by a writer from the New York Times that was interesting is,” that according to the University of Wisconsin Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation specialization is more popular among women as they specialize at a 39% compared to men at 25%”. Specializing in a sport to become great at it sounds like a good idea, so why are school athletic directors and doctors so against it.

Why are athletes that specialize experiencing more injuries?

The major problem that comes hand in hand with specialization is overuse which results from athletes spending countless hours trying to get better. As stated by Jason Gonzales, a writer for the Star Tribune,“His young teens can't get enough, but Coach Telleen knows the consequences of too much. Sore elbows, shoulders and knees can lead to nagging injuries in the latter part of high school careers.” Although these kids are putting in the hours to get better these hours might not be the best thing for their developing bodies as they are putting stress on their joints and ligaments. For example Jacob Bogage, a sports writer for the Washington Post, reports,”That kind of overtraining led McKinley Tech senior sprinter Denzell Brown into a years’ worth of stress injuries from which he is just now recovering.” Over training sounds like a terrible idea but what they are trying to achieve through specialization is the ultimate goal of any athlete.

What are the reasons athletes are specializing?

Specializing offers a high school athlete a chance to make it to the next level as well as getting their college paid for. Verlan Nikkel, a writer for the National Federation of State High School Associations, observes, “The pitch for the AAU teams is, ‘put in the time with us and we can get you a college scholarship.’ If kids play another sport, it takes time away from becoming more proficient in the other sport.” If an athlete doesn’t focus all of their time in one sport they are hurting themselves with not becoming the best they can be in a certain sport. On the other side if an athlete does choose to specialize they can see major benefits. Jacob Bogage, a writer for the Washington Post, Interviewed Denzell Brown“He doesn’t regret specializing, he said — he is on the verge of a Division I track scholarship “. Trying your best to get a scholarship to college sounds like a no-brainer but, this leaves me wondering who are these people that are specializing.

What are the demographics of the people that specialize?

There is a wide variety of people that specialize in one sport as well as a wide variety of sports that are affected by specialization. In a recent study performed by the NFHS, they found the following results in male sports, “Specializing happens at around a 37% rate in both soccer and tennis with basketball in a distant third at 19%”. This shows that there are some sports that experience specialization more than other, but every sport does have some sort of specialization. Also specialization doesn’t happen until high school or even college. A sports specialization study conducted by UCLA found that the , “Average age of specialization is 19, that 88 percent participated in an average of two to three sports as children, and 70 percent did not specialize in one sport until after the age of 12.” With the average age of specialization at 19, what are the risks of specialization too early.

What are the risks of specializing to early?

The main risk that youth athletes experience when they specialize too early are burnout and poor development of their athletic abilities. Brooke De Lench, a writer for Moms Team, states, “An athlete who specializes early or plays on an ultra-competitive select team is at increased risk of burnout or quitting sports as a result of chronic stress, repetitive strain and a decrease in intrinsic motivation and enjoyment during their training sessions.” Specializing too early puts a lot of stress on the kid physically and mentally. If the athlete doesn’t reach their goals then they will feel they have let down their coaches and parents. Another side effect of early specialization is that the athletes don’t develop their bodies and athletic skills. Thomas Caruso, a coach and member of the NSCA, proves early specialization can hinder an athlete's skills, “Diversification in sports at an early age has the potential to provide stimuli so that a child’s body can adapt and develop multiple motor skills that may crossover between sports.” If an athlete only plays one sport they only see one stimuli , but if they play multiple sports they see more stimuli and increase their hand-eye coordination making them a better athlete.


This video is relevant because it gives good data about Specialization on the risks of it. Also they interviewed a former Professional athlete and asked him his views on whether kids should play multiple sports, like he did, or Specialize like many athletes do now.

Work cited

Bogage, Jacob. “Sport specialization increases injury risk for high school athletes, study finds.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 25 Jan. 2017, Accessed 11 Feb. 2017.

Gonzalez, Jason. "Teen athletes in overdrive find bodies can't keep up." Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN) 24 July 2012: Points of View Reference Center. Web. Accessed 3 Feb. 2017.

Nikkel, Verlan. “Specialization in High School Sports.” Specialization in High School Sports, NFHS, Accessed 10 Feb. 2017.

"The Age of Single-Sport Athletes Endures Despite Detractors' Suspicions."New York Times; ProQuest Newsstand, Apr 30 2016, . Accessed 13 Feb. 2017.

Wkbttv. “Sports specialization: Looking at the research.” YouTube, YouTube, 8 Feb. 2016, Accessed 1 Mar. 2017.

Wojtys, Edward M. "Sports Specialization vs Diversification." Sports Health. SAGE Publications, 5 May 2013. Accessed 9 Feb. 2017.


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