Tip of the Month – May

Coach Monika says…

 

Ever experienced neck tension, discomfort/soreness, or even pain after extended smartphone or laptop use? According to medical research, looking at your tablet with a tilted head, a most unfavourable position, leads to muscle tension and soreness in the shoulders and neck, as does prolonged sitting with incorrect posture. Massive tension in the upper back, shoulders, and neck region can lead to stress and persistent headaches.

Moreover, many sport activities utilize movement patterns with the upper body in the forward and convex position, which results in the ‘forward rounded shoulder syndrome’ or so-called ‘slouch position.’ Therefore, contra-indicated exercises (shoulder and upper body stretches) should be included in daily Warm-up and/or Cool-down exercises for health reasons.

The following exercises are helpful to release tension:

  • Avoid remaining in an uncomfortable or strained position for longer periods of time
  • Tilt head to the R – center head – tilt head to the L – try to touch ear to shoulder while keeping shoulder depressed (down) – 8-16 repetitions
  • Rotate shoulder slowly forward – 8-16 repetitions
  • Rotate shoulders slowly backward – 8-16 repetitions
  • Alternate shoulder rotation – 16 repetitions – forward and backward
  • Pull up R shoulder to R ear – lower – 8-16 repetitions – pull up L shoulder to L ear – lower shoulder – 8-16 repetitions – or alternate shoulder

 

Exercise #1

Exercise #2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Stand, feet slightly apart or sit upright on a chair, feet flat on floor and slightly apart – place both hands on one side at the back part of the head (on bottom, just above the onset of the neck) – massage neck muscles softly forward and downward toward the chest and ribcage – feel around for small knots of muscles, which cause tension – use two fingers of one hand and palm of opposite hand and apply pressure against the knot[s] until pain ceases – repeat on opposite side
  2. Stand upright, feet slightly apart – pull in stomach – place L hand overhead onto R side of the head – tilt head slowly to L side while stretching R arm at the same time downward until feeling a slight pull in the neck and shoulder girdle – hold 30 seconds – release – repeat on other side – repeat exercise 6-8 times per day

References:

Das Goldene Blatt (2017, December 13). Gesundheit. Übung der Woche. Löst Verspannungen und lindert Nackenschmerz [Health. Exercise of the week. Reduces tension and alleviates neck pain], #51, p. 23.

Das Goldene Blatt (2018, April 18). Gesundheit. Übung der Woche. Nacken-Akupressur befreit vom Schmerz. [Health. Exercise of the week. Neck- acupuncture relieves pain], #15, p. 24.

Die Aktuelle (2018, April 18). Herr Doctor was kann das sein? Weshalb habe ich ständig Nackenschmerzen. [Doctor what can this be? Why do I have constant neck pain?], #18, p. 61.

Pictures:

Das Goldene Blatt (2017, December 13, #51, p. 23).

Das Goldene Blatt (2018, April 18, #15, p. 24).

Positive Impact of Multi-Sport Experience – Part 4

Previous articles centered on burnout and dropout, stress, and injuries linked to early specialization. While the topic has been a hot discussion for years, it seemingly has had little impact! Parents and coaches still embrace the ‘win at all cost’ attitude and push kids early on despite existing data or expert opinions and well-reviewed evidence highlighting the pitfalls of the approach. Researchers pursue the topic once again due to significant consequences.

According to present research, it is very beneficial for younger athletes to participate in various sports and learn from and interact with different coaches. Multi-sport experiences enhance children’s movement repertoire and fundamental movement patterns if teachers and coaches follow guidelines of physical literacy (ABCs, agility, balance, coordination, and speed).

For example, I trained and competed in Germany during my youth years in the so-called Jahn Sechs Kampf1 [Jahn Six-event competition] consisting of 2-Aquatic events  (selected 50 m Breaststroke, and Forward Pike Dive on 1m board); 2-Athletic events (selected 75m Sprint, and Long Jump), 1-Gymnastics event (selected Vaulting), and 1- Rhythmic Sportive event (selected Rope). The competition was held as a local, state, regional, national event, and included the ‘Deutsches Turn Fest’ (German Gymnastics Festival, comprising gymnastics, rhythmic sportive, athletics, and swimming), and the so-called Gymnastrada2 [Open International Event, held every 3-4 years].

The German Sport System

Jugend Leistungs Sport Abzeichen in Gold [Youth Sport Brooch in Gold]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The German sport system also has an annual sport participation event, called ‘Sport für Alle’ [Sport for All] whereby participants of all ages accumulate points based on fixed national standards for the ‘Leistungs Sport Abzeichen’ [Sport Achievement Badge]3 in various sport activities: run, jump, throw, swimming (choice event), various gymnastics skills, biking for specific distance, and hiking specific routes. To start up, one can earn a crest/broche/badge in Bronze, then move to Silver, and then Gold (in that order) for ‘Jugend’ [Youth] and ‘Senioren’ [Seniors = over 18 years]. Each can be repeated as many times as desired in consecutive years in the respective color: Bronze 1, 2, 3, etc.; Silver 1, 2, 3, etc.; and Gold 1, 2, 3, etc. That specific number is engraved at the bottom [shown: mine – Jugend Gold]. My father participated into his 80s, earning Senioren Gold 25 (25 repeated years), a true representation of ‘Sport for Life.’

Schools also participate nationwide in prescribed individual and team sport activities, Bundes Jugend Spiele4 [Federation Youth Games]. The school with the highest point total is granted a reception by the German President, and individual participants with highest point total receive the certificate from the German President. I have a box full of these (shown below), and I am very proud of my achievements based on multi-sport athleticism!

Inside – National Certificate President Theodore Heuss’s Signature

Front – National Certificate

    

                    

 

                                      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moreover, most German athletes participate in what is referred to as ‘Ausgleichs Sport’ [several translation can be used here: doing another sport as equalizing activity, or compensation for, sport balancing, whereby one engages in another sport at the recreational, club, partial or competitive or seasonal level]. For example, my brother, 3-time Olympic captain for German Ice hockey, played Summer Club Soccer, while German elite swimmer Sandra Völker participated in recreational Volleyball as her ‘Ausgleichs Sport.’

The Argument for Developmental versus Chronological Age

Istvan Balyi, leading Canadian Sport For Life CS4L expert and architect of the Long-term Athlete Development (LTAD), presented his research at the Canadian Summit in Gatineau, Quebec, January 23-25, 2018. He strongly disapproves of the current training philosophy evidenced in North American age group programming and the traditional competition format, superimposed by Sports Federations based on chronological rather than developmental ages. He calls for optimal training and competition preparation, developmentally appropriate and meaningful competition, and optimal recovery, which takes into consideration early, average, and late maturing athletes. The chart shows the range of boys and girls based on chronological versus developmental age.

Schloder, M.E. (2017). Growth and Development. NCCP Supplementary Lecture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Height Variations among 7-8 year old Boys and Girls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture of boys basketball team showing the height difference between each of them

Height differences between adolescent male athletes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Height difference between four adolescent female swimmers

Height Difference of 13-14 year old female Athletes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of Early Specialization Series Parts 2, 3, and 4

  1. Athletes emerge more balanced and well rounded within the developmental ‘athlete-centered’ program of Fun, skills, and goal achievement. It increases their chances of reaching elite levels in their sport, according to sport psychologists and sport sociologists.
  2. Athletes who try a number of sports and specialize at older ages reach higher performance levels than those who specialize early, and more importantly are less likely to experience burnout because they do not develop the typical ‘perfectionist driven’ attitude ever so present in early specialization programs.
  3. Athletes who specialize later also develop better movement patterns and decision-making skills because of the range of activities that require various cognitive and physical functions.
  4. Being in various sport situations keeps athletes mentally refreshed and more open-minded.
  5. Foremost, the more sports children and youth engage at younger ages in so-called ‘sampling or smorgasboard’ activities, the easier it is for them to select the one sport best suited to their mental makeup and body composition in order to specialize in that sport later on. Additionally, ‘sampling’ various sports and activities provides opportunities to develop fundamental movement skills within a variety of environments, and allows athletes to become more athletically diverse and adaptable.
  6. Athletes pursuing a number of sport experiences are most likely remaining in sports for longer period of times and stay ‘active for life.’
  7. Baker, Côté and Abernathy (2003) demonstrate a high correlation between an increase in sports sampled as a youth and the chances of succeeding and becoming elite athletes (cited in I. Balyi, R. Wade, & C. Higgs, 2013, pp. 53-54). Baker et al. also show that reaching excellence and elite status in a single-sport training system is not the vital factor in determining success; however, developing physical literacy and specializing later is.

References:

Baker, J., CôtéJ., & Abernathy, B. (2003). Sport-specific training, deliberate practice and the development of expertise in team ball sports. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 15, 12-25.

Balyi, I., Way, R., & Higgs, C. (2013). Long-term athlete development. A guide to developing a philosophy of sport for life; training frameworks, a consistently successful organization. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Bompa, T. (1995). From childhood to champion athlete. Toronto, ON: Veritas.

Coakley, J. (2000). Sport in society: Issues and controversies (6th ed.) Toronto, ON: Times Mirror/Mosby.

DiFiori, J.P. (2002). Overuse injuries in young athletes: An overview. Athletic Therapy Today, 7(6), 25-29.

Gould, D., Udry, E., Tuffey, S., & Loehr, J. (1996). Burnout in competitive junior tennis players: A quantitative psychological assessment. The Sport Psychologist, 10, 322-340.

Hill, G. (2009). Sport specialization: Causes and concerns. [PowerPoint slides]. Presented at the Long-term Athlete Development Conference of the Utah Athletic Foundation. Salt Lake City, UT.

Klika, B. (2018). Early sport specialization: Getting them to listen. Retrieved April 19, 2018, from http://iyca.org/early-sport-specialization-getting-them-to-listen/?inf_ contact_key=d7b16a7aefda94e3123209fae92a894930bf5ff352ad8d103b6630ba600eba02

Sanderson, L. (1989). Growth and development considerations for design of training plans for young athletes. Sports, 10(2).

Schwarz, C. (May 17, 2017). Hockey players who can’t catch. The Calgary Herald, B8.

Touretski, G. (1993). Physiological development of the young swimmer. A rational for the long-term preparation of the young swimmer. Paper presented at the Australian Institute for Sport. Canberra, Australia.

Weineck, J. (2010). Optimales Training. Leistungsphysiologische Trainingslehre unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Kinder und Jugendtrainings [Optimal training. Physiological performance within training theory with special consideration consideration for children and youth training]. Balingen, Germany: Spitta Verlag.

Notes:

Dr. Jürgen Weineck, PhD, Dr. Med., Emeritus. Sport Institute for Sport Science and Sport. University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany.

1 Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778 – 1852), German gymnastics educator and nationalist. He is known as Turnvater Jahn, roughly meaning “father of gymnastics.”

2 Gymnastrada: Various performance-based sport events provide the opportunity to celebrate movement and physical activity in a non-competitive environment while capturing the true essence of the ‘Gymnastics for All’ and ‘Active for Life’ philosophies of sport and recreation.

3 Sport Achievement Badge (German: Deutsches Sportabzeichen (DSA) – decoration      from German Olympic Sports of the Federal Republic of Germany – German Sports Badge Test carried out primarily in Germany

4 ‘Bundes Jugend Spiele’ by Schools [Federation Youth Games]

5 Pictures, courtesy Istvan Balyi

    Balyi, I. (2018). Long-term athlete development. Gatineau, QC: Canadian Summit. Canadian Sport for Life (CS4L). January 23-25, 2018.

Websites and Forums on the Topic of Early Specialization:

http://www.theprovince.com/news/local+news/fear+greed+broken+dreams+early+sports+specialization/17236038/story.html

https://www.trackie.com/track-and-field/Forum/early-sports-specialization-is-eroding-youth-sports/16485/?comment_id=MAIN&quote=1

http://www.worldfootynews.com/article.php/20180402211733509

https://www.paradigmsports.ca/its-only-a-game-mom/

Tip of the Month – April 2018

Coach Monika says…

 

Numerous people in the past stated that I have been “light years ahead of time” – something which was not always to my advantage as the same people also called me “crazy” for my novel coaching approach. The March Newsletter dealt with the impact of posture on sport performance, and incorporating modified Ballet into your sport program – a trend that has been increasing with popularity over time. In fact, there was a recent report in the Calgary Herald (March 31, p. G 8), “Time to raise the barre on your fitness routine”, about that very subject.

Am I still crazy? I used modified Ballet, Yoga, and Pilates years ago when the fitness industry was not even aware of these activities. I released two dual DVDs in 2016, Ballet for Swimmers: Modified Exercises for Cross-training and Ballet for Athletes: Modified Exercises for Cross-training. The swim DVD links modified ballet exercises to swim strokes, starts, and turns; while the Athlete DVD deals with various individual and team sports.

So, why is the fitness industry just recently putting emphasis on the benefits of barre training? Here are excerpts from the Calgary Herald, 2018:

…You may think you’re doing a more graceful and slower paced workout, but guaranteed you’ll be sweating, and your thigh muscles will be twitching while doing a ballet barre class. Combining ballet, Pilates and Yoga, barre classes have exploded, taking a page from diligent ballet dancers who have the gams to show for their dedication…

…Barre is used for many of the exercises that isolate specific muscle groups, and you will use it for balance or to grab on to just when you think you can’t do one more plié or squat (sometimes with the added challenge of a medicine ball squeezed between your thighs)…

…After a couple of classes, you’ll feel you’re well on your way to a firmer derriere, thighs and calves. The upper half of your body isn’t forgotten in the hour-long workouts. There’s also ‘Ab’ work, hand weights for triceps and biceps and shoulders. You will feel like you’ve worked just about every muscle in your body when you’re done…

Coach Monika suggests putting new life into your training program and having your athletes try ballet to change the daily routine and maintain motivation.

Reference:

Monforton, L. (2018, March 31). Beyond the everyday gym. Time to raise the barre on your fitness routine. The Calgary Herald, p. G8.

Consequences of Early Specialization in Children and Youth Sports – Part 3B

In support of the previous discussion, I have added an article by Glen Mulcahy. *The article has been modified somewhat for this Newsletter.*Glen Mulcahy is the Founder and CEO of Paradigm Sports; and Executive Director, For the Love of the Game. He is a Hockey Canada NCCP Facilitator & Regional Evaluation Coordinator for BC Hockey

It’s Only a Game, Mom!

These days, Fun in youth sports is rapidly fading as dreams of children are replaced by the ambitions of overzealous adults. As the sport system has become increasingly more ‘adultified’ (parent volunteers, parent organizers, etc.), the number of children playing sports has steadily decreased. Different sport associations across the country (Canada) are losing young athletes; for example, British Columbia Soccer enrolment decreased seven percent from last year. A recent study by the Aspen Institute (Washington, DC) reports a 23.5-percent drop in US players ages 6-12 over a five-year period.

The trend towards early single-sports specialization – defined as nine months or more of a single sport to the exclusion of others – has been named as the main cause. While other activities, like video games or the rise of alternative, non-traditional sports, have also contributed to the decline, early specialization is mostly the reason for overuse injuries, emotional and psychological damage, and burnout. ‘Adultification’ ignores the fact that sport is supposed to serve the young, says North Vancouver’s Matt Young, a fitness company innovator, who was recently tapped by the U.S. Olympic Committee to produce an athlete development model. According to Young, “sports are supposed to be a dress rehearsal for life, for winning, losing, feedback, role modeling, responsibility, victory, and defeat. It is supposed to be about that athlete’s journey. It has turned into the aggressive pursuit of parents, number of ‘wins’ coaches produce, while the focus is not on the kids.”

Early Start – Early Finish Dilemma

Children’s physical literacy begins at an early discovery stage with skills like moving, falling, running, throwing, and jumping. Then fundamental movement skills such as hitting, catching, agility, and striking should be taught in elementary school years before learning skills and drills during the 10-12-age range. It is during this later stage that the drop in enrollment begins with readily available and damning data. ‘Early specialization’ has negative impacts on the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of athletes, both in the short and long term. The ‘driving force’ is not the child dreaming of being the next superstar – it is the parents’ vicarious ambitions that allegedly this is the only path to get to professional or post-secondary levels, a prevailing attitude which seems to be implanted into the public’s psyche! However, the data shows this pursuit does more harm than good. 

Six percent of high school athletes move on to play in college. Maybe two percent of those go on to the professional level. If asked, however, 99 percent of parents think their child represents that very two percent. On the quantifiable side, from a physiological and psychological level, we’re damaging the children. The evidence shows that overuse injuries on the physical and physiological level are rampant. Female soccer players, some as young as 10 years old, have suffered severe knee injuries such as torn anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL). Since 2002, there has been a 400 percent increase in those injuries in girls, aged 10-17 in North America. In youth baseball across North America, 57 percent of Tommy John surgeries – once nearly exclusive used in the ranks of professional pitchers – are performed on players aged 15-19 (Tommy John surgery is named after the MLB pitcher of the same name, who was the first to undergo an experimental treatment where the ligament in the elbow of the affected arm is replaced with a tendon from the forearm).

The Oakland Children’s Hospital surveyed 200 NBA players, and found that those who were single-sport athletes, starting in Grade 8 were injured at a rate 10 times higher than those who were multi-sport athletes, and had shorter playing careers. 

“Parents are aspiring for their kids to reach that really, really high plateau, when in actually they should be happy to watch them play, and encouraging them to try as many sports as they can,” said Delta’s Glen Mulcahy, who started Paradigm Sports, a resource for coaches and parents, about five years ago. Playing multiple sports provides a physical literacy, a base of fundamental movement that crosses sports and prevents overuse injuries when the body is still too young to handle those repetitive motions.”

“There’s a massive physical toll on young bodies, and one of the most tragic syndromes is, kids don’t go play in the park anymore; they don’t fall out of trees; they don’t have this multi-movement childhood,” said John O’Sullivan, founder of the Changing the Game Project. “Experts tell you if you teach people to move correctly first – you make them athletes first – then later on the sports-specific skills, that’s the best way to prevent injuries and give people the best chance to be successful.”

Under-6 Travel Soccer isn’t the Place to Start

Numerous athletes, parents and health-care professionals were contacted for this article. All were more than willing to discuss their experiences but the stigma attached to the ‘meat grinder’ they had endured made them hesitant to be identified publicly, expressing the sentiment that it was akin to voting for a politician, who turned his back on the platform that had got him elected. It was, in short, embarrassing to be confronted with their own mistakes – especially if they were still in the system. One local physiotherapist at a large athlete development centre has a 14-year-old in elite sports, who trains nearly the entire year round, obsessing over the data and information that comes with wearable technology. “These kids aren’t taking time off. It’s recommended that they take a big chunk of time off from their primary sport every year. I have one child in a high-level sport, and she takes one week in the fall, and two weeks in August. That is it! Athletes are not encouraged to take time off!”

“It’s great to see [her] learn through the experience, but I wish [she’d] done something different. She’s quite isolated, especially when she’s injured, because she’s not going to her social events. I’m lucky I have two kids. I get to do it differently the second time.” The athletes most prized by the NCAA are the ones who have the ‘complete package.’ UCLA baseball coach John Savage said: “We like them cross-trained. Stick with multiple sports as long as you possibly can, and people are going to see your tools. Stick with one sport long enough, and people are going to see your scars.”

It’s a Multi-dollar Industry

So why do parents bury their heads in the sand? The answer is marketing according to the experts, as youth sport was a $7-billion industry in 2014. Last year, it cracked the $15-billion mark. As illustrated in January’s Vancouver Province feature “The Money Pit: Why Professionalization of Youth Sports is Worrisome,” the skyrocketing costs of youth sports are largely due to the cottage industries that have sprung up around it, from pricey sports academies to year-round leagues or specialized training and coaches. “The business of sport has become big, and it feeds off the primary human motivators: fear and greed,” said Matt Young. “Every parent has a fear of missing out.” Dr. Tommy John, son of the former Major League pitcher who made history by being the first to undergo the experimental tendon surgery, has written a book called Minimize Injury, Maximize Performance: A Sport Parent’s Survival Guide. He also blames the industries that are pushing the professionalization of youth sports to their own financial benefit. “It’s billions of dollars that people are gaining putting out a message that states, ‘your son or daughter must compete year-round, compete early on, [and] specialize early on,” he said. “It’s a fear campaign coming at parents who only want the best for their kid. Their biggest fault is they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get the best. Unfortunately, they don’t understand it’s not the appropriate way a human develops, nor is it the healthiest manner of going about creating the best athlete possible.

“So not only are we having to ‘rehab’ them orthopedically, they’re also seeking psychiatric care for anxiety, attention deficit and depression that stems from them trying to overachieve early on before they’re even able to.” “It could very well be that the landscape is shifting in sport, and with that we also need to think about ways we conceptualize, account for, and recognize sport as well as participation.

Parents need to encourage their children to try multiple sports and activities to become well-rounded people instead of narrowly focused athletes, says Mulcahy. “It’s really simple, and it will sound like an oxymoron, but kids play sports for one reason: to have Fun. They’re quitting because it is no longer Fun,” he said. “If we can reintroduce free play in our youth sports, even if it’s unstructured, as to where they play for the sake of playing and not for the sake of competing, that itself will make it Fun again for kids.

“We’re not only depriving them of an opportunity to play other sports and activities, but what about other activities like band, art, drama, music, computer science, reading – all of that ‘stuff’ that should help them become well-rounded people? If they specialize, they don’t have the time for any of it. We’re making them little robots, really early, and it’s no wonder they burn out really fast.”

References

Baker, J., CôtéJ., & Abernathy, B. (2003). Sport-specific training, deliberate practice and the development of expertise in team ball sports. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 15, 12-25.

Balyi, I., Way, R., & Higgs, C. (2013). Long-term athlete development. A guide to developing a philosophy of sport for life; training frameworks, a consistently successful organization. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Bompa, T. (1995). From childhood to champion athlete. Toronto, ON: Veritas.

Coakley, J. (2000). Sport in society: Issues and controversies (6th ed.) Toronto, ON: Times Mirror/Mosby.

DiFiori, J.P. (2002). Overuse injuries in young athletes: An overview. Athletic Therapy Today, 7(6), 25-29.

Gould, D., Udry, E., Tuffey, S., & Loehr, J. (1996). Burnout in competitive junior tennis players: A quantitative psychological assessment. The Sport Psychologist, 10, 322-340.

Hill, G. (2009). Sport specialization: Causes and concerns. [PowerPoint slides]. Presented at the Long-term Athlete Development Conference of the Utah Athletic Foundation. Salt Lake City, UT.

Klika, B. (2018). Early sport specialization: Getting them to listen. Retrieved April 19, 2018, from http://iyca.org/early-sport-specialization-getting-them-to-listen/?inf_ contact_key=d7b16a7aefda94e3123209fae92a894930bf5ff352ad8d103b6630ba600eba02

Sanderson, L. (1989). Growth and development considerations for design of training plans for young athletes. Sports, 10(2).

Schwarz, C. (May 17, 2017). Hockey players who can’t catch. The Calgary Herald, B8.

Touretski, G. (1993). Physiological development of the young swimmer. A rational for the long-term preparation of the young swimmer. Paper presented at the Australian Institute for Sport. Canberra, Australia.

Weineck, J. (2010). Optimales Training. Leistungsphysiologische Trainingslehre unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Kinder und Jugendtrainings [Optimal training. Physiological performance within training theory with special consideration consideration for children and youth training]. Balingen, Germany: Spitta Verlag.

Note:

Dr. Jürgen Weineck, PhD, Dr. Med., Emeritus. Sport Institute for Sport Science and Sport. University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany.

Websites:

http://theprovince.com/news/local-news/fear-greed-broken-dreams-how-early-sports-

specialization-is-eroding-youth-sports/wcm/e0cd4110-9764-4e7f-b98f-46f31a8ee9ff

https://www.trackie.com/track-and-field/Forum/early-sports-specialization-is-eroding-youth-sports/16485/?comment_id=MAIN&quote=1

http://www.worldfootynews.com/article.php/20180402211733509

https://www.paradigmsports.ca/its-only-a-game-mom/

 

Consequences of Early Specialization in Children and Youth Sports – Part 3A

Experts have been discussing the topic of early specialization to a great extent lately because the consequences of this training approach are apparently very detrimental, according to their research. German-American developmental psychologist Erik Ericson (1902-1984) is best known for his theory on the psychological development of human beings, and coining the phrase ‘identity crisis.’ He advocates that children 6-12 years of age need to be exposed to a ‘smorgasbord’ of activities, rather than early specialization in one sport.

Early specialization is defined as “athletes limiting participation to a single sport, which they train for and compete in on a year-round basis” (Balyi, Way, & Higgs, 2013, pp. 51-52). Four parameters are generally applied to define early specialization:

  • Early start in a given sport
  • Early involvement in one sport as opposed to participating in several sports
  • Early involvement with focus on high intensity training
  • Early involvement in one competitive sport

Researchers have now divided sports into ‘early’ and ‘late’ specialization categories. Accordingly, ‘early specialization’ for future excellence is mostly essential in acrobatic and artistic sports such as diving, figure skating, and gymnastics because complex movement patterns and sport skills should be acquired before the onset of adolescent growth spurt (about 12 years of age for females – 14 years for males). Nevertheless, some negative consequences in these programs cannot be avoided, especially overuse injuries. ‘Late specialization’ refers to the belief that ‘early specialization’ is not needed, and applies to all other sports, including team, racket, combative, and gliding sports.

The Australian Institute of Sport actually recommends that ‘initial specialization’ for swimmers begins between ages 7 and 9 for girls, and ages 10-11 for boys; in-depth specialization between ages 12 and 14, and 13 and 15 respectively (Touretski, 1993, cited in I. Balyi, R. Way, & C. Higgs, 2013, p. 57). A great example of ‘late specialization’ is former Russian swimmer Alexander Popov. He is still widely considered to be the greatest sprint swimmer in history, winning gold in the 50m and 100m freestyle at the 1992  and 1996 Olympics, holding the world record in the 50m for eight years, and the 100m record for six years. In 2003, he won 50m and 100m Gold at the 2003 World Championships at age 31. Interestingly, he only began swimming at age 8 at the Children and Youth Sports School of Fakel Sports Complex in Lesnoy, and was afraid of water at that time but his father insisted that he took lessons. Popov did not train intensively and enter competition until age 16!

Negative Consequences of Early Specialization – One-dimensional Aspect

The focus on one particular sport develops the skills, coordination, and sport specific fitness for doing well in that sport in the short term, but limits or even prevents the development of other transferable sport skills, according to research. Multi-sport participation provides not only positive and social experiences but also Fun. I hate to be blunt, but “one-sport engagement creates “motor morons when attempting activities beyond the selected sport”, according to my extensive coaching experience (Schloder, 2018). Chris Schwarz, strength and conditioning coach of the NHL Ottawa Senators laments: “My players can’t run, jump, or throw – fundamental movement patterns, and I have to teach these now” (Hockey players who can’t catch, The Calgary Herald, B8, May 17, 2017). He calls it an “epidemic”, stating that athleticism is declining among today’s NHL players. According to Schwarz, “it’s starting early. Ask your kid if he or she can somersault, play catch with both hands, or run backward. Do those three things. I think most parents would be astonished that their kids can’t do it”, Schwarz told Postmedia’s Wayne Scanlan.

Numerous experts argue that specialization in one sport contributes to the “progressive loss of freedom in exchange for increased excellence and precision” because of intensified demands and pressures not only from themselves but also from coaches and parents (Novak, 1976, & Hill, 2009, p. 108, cited in I. Balyi, R. Wade, & C. Higgs, 2013, p. 53). Sport sociologist Jay Coakley (2000) states that “early specialization contributes to a one-dimensional self-concept as a result of a constrained set of life experiences” (cited in in I. Balyi, R. Wade, & C. Higgs, 2013, p. 52). Loaded training schedules, consistent intense and high-volume training, multiple competitions, in addition to school and studies can easily lead to psychological burnout, according to Gould, Udry, Tuffey and Loehr, 1996 (cited in in I. Balyi, R. Wade, & C. Higgs, 2013, p. 53). It affords athletes little time to socialize with friends or take part in other recreational activities. Ironically, the initial intention of creating ‘exceptional athletes’ often hinders their development and increases the potential of sport dropout due to stress and anxiety from extreme real or perceived pressures.

Sport psychologists and sport sociologists estimate the current dropout rate at 70-73% by age 12-13, and it is said to continue to age 17, whereby girls present the higher drop out rate. A study by researchers at the Michigan State’s Institute for the Study of Youth Sports examined 20,000 young athletes. According to the results, the number one reason to get engaged in sports is having FUN!” “I lost interest and it was no longer Fun” was the top reason equally cited by boys and girls to leave the sport! No wonder! That means 27 of 73% potentially may stay engaged in sport but less than 1-2 percent make it to the High Performance or Olympic level! Given the fact that male athletes now compete into their 30’s, I pose the question, what is the early push for success all about? Additionally, athletes in the study provided answered that they would re-enter sport “if practices were more Fun”, and if “coaches were better teachers” (listed as reason #5 for girls and#6 for boys).

Michigan Study: Reasons Children and Youth Engage in Sport and Dropout Reasons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Schloder, M.E. (2017). Parents and children in sport.
Lecture Sociology in Sport.

Burnout – Dropout Signs and Symptoms

Emotional burnout is the by-product of an intensely competitive environment for a group whose biggest wants and needs are being ignored. It basically means physical or emotional exhaustion caused by long-term stress due to an intense sport program. Children just starting out in sport are unlikely to be affected; if they get seriously involved, however, it can become a factor. The symptoms of burnout can be physical, mental and/or emotional. Athletes usually feel ‘out of it’ as they experience a loss of control over their lives. Burnout and overtraining syndrome are closely linked, and occur when athletes experience worsening performances despite intense training. It is believed to result from a multitude of factors such as constant high levels of physiologic or emotional stress, fatigue, immune system failure, or insufficient recovery time. There are numerous signs and symptoms such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and chronic fatigue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Schloder, M.E. (2017). Parents and children in sport. Lecture Sociology in Sport.

Amanda Visek at George Washington University showed in a study that the focus for children is Fun and social aspect of sports; they ranked winning and competition near the bottom. Adults flipped those values when polled. The kid, who says, “this is Fun in my sport, and this is not – should be heard,” said Mulcahy, Founder and CEO of Paradigm Sports. “It’s no wonder these kids are quitting. We’re not cluing into the reason children play” – and those who aren’t, are left with chronic injuries as well as emotional ones.

There are those, who quit sports for good early, sabotaged by “psychological daggers” inflicted by coaches or teachers, said University of Manitoba’s Dr. Dean Kreillaars. There are those on the elite path, who are emotionally stunted, unable to deal with life outside of their sport. Kreillaars, one of the world’s leading experts on physical literacy and health, related a conversation he had with Lanny McDonald, the NHL Hall of Famer of the NHL Calgary Flames. “If you ask him how many outstanding citizens … there are out of all the teammates that you had, after they had a good career in the NHL, … his answer will be only one of in 23 players,” said Kreillaars. “Many lose their identity after they leave hockey because they are over-specialized, and their identity is 100 per cent tied to that single sport. They lack versatility, and have no longevity, and durability.” None of what has been written here is new information. It’s been around for decades. The IOC released a statement in 2005 ‘damning’ the emergence of ‘early specialization’ because of the physical, psychological and social ailments associated with it, the rising injury rates, and the diminishing sports participation numbers.

Risk of Injuries

Additional negative consequences include overuse and chronic injuries such as tennis elbow, rotator cuff injuries (swimming), stress fractures (gymnastics), ACL injuries (team sports, athletics, tennis, etc.), and knee injuries, especially in female athletes. According Dr. Nota Klentrou (scientist and Kinesiology professor at Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), early specialization with the focus on only one sport may help young athletes perform better at that early age but is generally harmful to their long-term development. One particular area of her concern is overuse injury, which may become chronic and/or a career-ending injury, related to increased training and competition in pre-adolescence and adolescence. Research supports ‘integrative’ training in multiple sports and activities, and the use of ‘neuromuscular warm-up’ in programs to reduce the incidence of overuse and chronic injury (Klentrou).

References

Baker, J., CôtéJ., & Abernathy, B. (2003). Sport-specific training, deliberate practice and the development of expertise in team ball sports. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 15, 12-25.

Balyi, I., Way, R., & Higgs, C. (2013). Long-term athlete development. A guide to developing a philosophy of sport for life; training frameworks, a consistently successful organization. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Bompa, T. (1995). From childhood to champion athlete. Toronto, ON: Veritas.

Coakley, J. (2000). Sport in society: Issues and controversies (6th ed.) Toronto, ON: Times Mirror/Mosby.

DiFiori, J.P. (2002). Overuse injuries in young athletes: An overview. Athletic Therapy Today, 7(6), 25-29.

Gould, D., Udry, E., Tuffey, S., & Loehr, J. (1996). Burnout in competitive junior tennis players: A quantitative psychological assessment. The Sport Psychologist, 10, 322-340.

Hill, G. (2009). Sport specialization: Causes and concerns. [PowerPoint slides]. Presented at the Long-term Athlete Development Conference of the Utah Athletic Foundation. Salt Lake City, UT.

Klika, B. (2018). Early sport specialization: Getting them to listen. Retrieved April 19, 2018, from http://iyca.org/early-sport-specialization-getting-them-to-listen/?inf_ contact_key=d7b16a7aefda94e3123209fae92a894930bf5ff352ad8d103b6630ba600eba02

Sanderson, L. (1989). Growth and development considerations for design of training plans for young athletes. Sports, 10(2).

Schwarz, C. (May 17, 2017). Hockey players who can’t catch. The Calgary Herald, B8.

Touretski, G. (1993). Physiological development of the young swimmer. A rational for the long-term preparation of the young swimmer. Paper presented at the Australian Institute for Sport. Canberra, Australia.

Weineck, J. (2010). Optimales Training. Leistungsphysiologische Trainingslehre unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Kinder und Jugendtrainings [Optimal training. Physiological performance within training theory with special consideration consideration for children and youth training]. Balingen, Germany: Spitta Verlag.

Note:

Dr. Jürgen Weineck, PhD, Dr. Med., Emeritus. Sport Institute for Sport Science and Sport. University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany.

Websites:

http://theprovince.com/news/local-news/fear-greed-broken-dreams-how-early-sports-

specialization-is-eroding-youth-sports/wcm/e0cd4110-9764-4e7f-b98f-46f31a8ee9ff

https://www.trackie.com/track-and-field/Forum/early-sports-specialization-is-eroding-youth-sports/16485/?comment_id=MAIN&quote=1

http://www.worldfootynews.com/article.php/20180402211733509

https://www.paradigmsports.ca/its-only-a-game-mom/

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 Dr. Monika Schloder Welcomes You To The Home of CoachingBest

Your one-stop for Coaching Tips, Training, and Information for the Athletic Coach

Years of teaching and coaching experience in several sports have provided me with the ability to understand the physical, mental, and emotional requirements for developing beginner to elite level athlete in several sports. The ‘knack’ to analyze sport movement, in essence, detect errors and then develop creative corrections and drills to improve, maximize, and optimize performance – no matter the sport – is one of my greatest assets.

Dr. Monika Scloder, Summer Swim Camp- Turku, Finland

Professional Activities:

  • DVD Series in Swimming and Athletic Training
  • Learning Facilitator, Canadian National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP), having educated over 24,000 coaches to date
  • Certified Alberta NCCP Coach Developer (2016) and Certified Coach Mentor (2017)
  • Speaker at International Congresses, Coaching Symposiums, and World Clinics
  • Master Coach in Residence, 1991-2004, for the Los Angeles based 84 Legacy of the Games (former Amateur Athletic Foundation or AAF), developing programs for Inner City Minority Youth Education and Leadership
  • Author of Coaching Manuals in Swimming and Soccer
  • Co-author “Coaching Athletes: A Foundation for Success”

 

Honors:

  • Alberta 2008 Coach of the Year
  • Recipient of 14 International Teaching and Coaching Awards
  • 3M Teaching Fellowship Award for Outstanding Teaching at Canadian Universities
  • Recipient of Teaching Excellence Awards, University of Calgary
  • At CoachingBest.com We offer sport consulting and coaching education to organizations worldwide with an emphasis on current issues, performance analysis, and performance improvement. Visit our Website and ‘Tips of the Week’ for current topics and coaching suggestions.

 

At CoachingBest.com We offer sport consulting and coaching education to organizations worldwide with an emphasis on current issues, performance analysis, and performance improvement.

Visit our Website and ‘Tips of the Month’ for current topics and coaching suggestions.

 

 


 

Dr. Schloder has developed a series of Training DVD’s to help Coaches and Athletes

 

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ASCA Workshop Conference and Presentation

Happenings from November

With Coach Rebecca Atchley – Dr. Schloder was an External Committee Member for Rebeca’s Masters Project Dr. Schloder’s Workshop Presentation

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Conference Photos

Happenings from September

Latest Happenings!!

 Dr. Monika Schloder at the ASCA World Clinic for Swimming, Jacksonville, Florida, Sept 8, 2014 Presenting at the 4-hour Work shop “Dry-land School for Age Group Swimmers” Coaches participate in her workshops… they don’t just sit!

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Back Arch Demo

Coach Schloder in Istanbul, Turkey Swim Camp , June 9-15

Underneath the swimmer to demonstrate the back arch position after the Back Crawl start. Not too many coaches can do this perfectly!

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Developing Physical Literacy

This highly acclaimed presentation was given by Dr. Schloder at the Canadian Sport for Life Summit (CS4L), which will be available as a movie version. Watch for the up-coming DVD: ‘Physical Activities for Children and Youth. Fundamental Movement Skills in the Pursuit of Excellence and Well-being.’

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2 comments

  1. Augusto Acosta

    I love your work!

  2. Kim Cox

    Super new front page on your website, very informative.

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