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  • Jesse Earley

Youth Athletes and Sport Specialization: The Debate

Sport Specialization in Young Athletes discusses the implications of playing a single sport all year long (Jayanthi, 2013). The article argues that in order to play at an elite level, athletes need to participate in 10000 hours or 10 years of sport specific training. Neeru Jayanthi suggests that in order to meet these expectations, athletes need to start sport specialization at a young age. Sport specialization can have consequences such as physical injury or physiological stress. Research has shown, training over 16 hours a week can significantly increase the risk of physical and psychological injuries to an athlete, which is termed “burnout.” The concluding thoughts of the article is that some sport specialization is required, but in regards to creating lifelong athletes, it is best to wait till after adolescence in order to reduce risks of mental and physical injuries.

What does this mean to RVX Athletes?

At RVXFactor, our goal is to develop our clients into well-rounded athletes, instead of training them specifically for only one sport or skill. We teach our athletes a multitude of athletic skills to avoid over specialization. Over specialization can result in physical strain to areas of the body that are constantly being worked. As performance coaches, we teach movements patterns that correlate to better fluency in motion. An example of this, is teaching athletes how to fire specific neural patterns within their nervous system properly, to recruit the correct motor patterns. In return, this results in efficiency of movement, allowing for maximal strength and power to be generated. When the correct movement patterns are recruited, the body is moving in an efficient way, which decreases the risk of injuries. Understanding the demands on the human body as it relates to sport allows the athlete to increase their athletic ability. Systematically we can use the necessities of all sports to help increase skilled progressions for athletes. Sprint development for speed, Olympic lifting techniques for power, and reaction based multidirectional movements are just some areas we cover to develop a complete athlete.

As the article suggests, a certain specialization is required to produce an elite athlete. At RXV we don’t train athletes to shoot a hockey puck with more velocity, etc. Instead, we teach the athlete how to recruit the proper muscle groups and transfer that force through their hips in straight lines. This reduces a loss of force through the motion. In return, this will improve the athletes’ shot and help prevent injury, which will aid in their long-term development. We use unique training programs to create elite athletes. Focusing on the development of human movements, we can counter the pitfalls associated with sport specialization at the early ages until an appropriate age. We want our athletes to enjoy the training they are receiving, while continuing to see progression and results.

Jayanthi, N., Pinkham, C., Dugas, L., Patrick, B., Labelle, C. (2013) Sport periodization in young athletes. Sports Health, 5(3), 251-257. doi: 10.1177/1941738112464626

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