The evolution of sports development and the competition itself has grown immensely in the last ten years. In general, sports are constantly growing, and the skill level is higher than ever. That being said, youth athletes spend more time on their sport specializing on one sport or one position. I think it is fantastic when young athletes have a passion for a position or sport. Where I do have a problem is when young players are turned into a one-position player or a one-sport athlete at a young age. By young athlete, I’m talking high school and younger. I understand that by senior year some kids have committed to play sports in college and/or are only playing one sport for various reasons. However, if you are a multiple sports athlete I encourage you to play out through high school to develop your fundamental athleticism.
I’ve seen more and more youth athletes that tell me, “I’m a PO (pitcher only)” or “I only play [X] sport because I don’t have time for anything else.” A significant portion of this problem stems from their superiors, including parent and coaches. A common miss-conception of getting better at a sport is constantly submersing in it. At least at a youth level, where you have options and you should be able to play multiple sports and positions. The problem with specializing in one sport or position is that rather than becoming a better well-rounded athlete, the focus is on mechanics, and over-use of muscles comes into play. Over-use at a young age is dangerous because many athletes don’t have the strength to combat their usage. (Different post)
The best thing a youth athlete can do is to try out as many sports and positions as they want. Becoming a better athlete should be their number one focus. They can later specialize in a particular sport or position as they mature into adults. When an athlete focuses on a single position or sport they are more focused on specific mechanics of a particular movement rather than compound full body movements. This causing atrophy and injury in the long run.
A very exaggerated example of specification in training or playing a sport is a golfer declaring, “I only putt the ball”, or, “I only hit the ball off the tee”. If this was the case it would make it pretty hard to play golf. My point is that you have to be well rounded and have the ability to use all facets of the game and develop the fundamentals of being an athlete before we specialize in sports.