Engagement in sports at an early age is vital for psychosocial development and physical fitness. However, the question has been whether children should focus on one sporting activity or engage in multiple activities. Specialization of the children in one systematized, competitive and controlled sporting activity at an early age, for a long time, has been a controversial issue. According to sport experts, engagement in organized sports nurtures positive child development (Hastie, 1998). However, most youth programs either encourage or require specialization at an early age. With time it becomes progressively natural for the youth to specialize in a single sporting activity. The change brings to the fore the controversy as to whether the youth should be made to specialize in a given specific sport or take part in multiple sports from childhood. While specialization in sports at an early age is good, engagement in multiple sports is more beneficial to a child. Such children get more motivate, adventurous, build components of athletic abilities with better chances of becoming better athletes when playing multiple sports. In effect, young athletes mature into more elite athletes when they participate in multiple sports growing.
Engagement in multiple sporting activities is beneficial since most professional athletes grew up playing more than the sport that made them professionals. According to Hastie, (1998), playing multiple sports allows athletes to develop multiple and complementary skills sets. These are cognitive, decision making and self-awareness skills. For example, by becoming proficient and successful in one sport, athletes develop positive and negative emotions surrounding their successes or failures. The children also get to learn emotional intelligence skills and how to handle stress and anxieties. The emotions surrounding successes and failures can bleed over to a secondary sport as motivation. (Vast, Young & Thomas, 2010). In a research by Soyer (2012), sixty-nine athletes participated in a study that determined their motivation levels through Likert-scale questions. The athletes who participate in only one sport reported low emotional satisfaction (Soyer, 2012). This affirms the role of sports in acquiring life skills and emotional stability.
Engagement in multiple sporting activities at childhood leads to a good adult athlete as well. Conceptually, when children can choose what sports they play or how invested they become in those sports; they can become successful athletes as adults (Martin & Shapiro, 2014). As such, engagement in multiple sports leads to adult physical fitness activity. According to Sags (2014), Ohio State University researchers established when children specialize at early in a one sport , they are likely to higher incidences of adulthood physical inactivity. That is, people who commit to a single sport at childhood are habitually the first to leave, with a lifetime of repercussions.
Allowing children to engage in multiple sports enhance talent discovery, adventures and satisfactions that comes with the childhood inquisitively and curiosity. However, the children who are only allowed to play one sport can feel great frustration, as they want to choose and “sample” other sports available to them. (Soyer, 2012). They will feel controlled and dictated to. They may end up avoiding sports altogether. Children, who participate in only one sport, do not develop the skill sets of other children who play multiple sports. Different sports enhance acquisition of different skills. For example football promotes body coordination and movements while dart sports enhance mental skills. as such the Children who participate in multiple sports have an increase in concentration, attention, and performance. (Vast, Young & Turner, 2010). They learn to multitask and focus on results as well as positive competition.
Coaches at higher levels prefer athletes that have built a full component of athletic abilities, which can be built through participation in multiple sports. College coaches, for example, look for players who can excel in a multitude of athletic skills (Hastie, 1998). Football players, for instance, who can have fast speeds and high vertical jumps, have often played sports that developed those skills. These skills are different, however, for male and female athletes and depending on the sports they play, can develop differently (Alfermann, Stambulova & Zemaityte, 2004). However, those who engage in a single sport at early age are less preferred by coaches because of burnout (Sagas, 2013). Children who concentrate in a single sport at an early age have higher risks of burnout because of stress, reduced motivation levels and lack of satisfaction and enjoyment that most coaches prefer.
On the contrary, some experts argue that athletes can become fully capable of building all necessary abilities from playing and training in one single sport. The argument is that being an accomplished athlete in a single sport is, of course, possible (Sagas, 2013). For example, one sport can develop one skill that is highly beneficial in that sport, but that skill does not translate well to a second sport like swimming.
However, the chances of becoming a better athlete when playing multiple sports are even more possible. When an athlete plays multiple sports, the athlete gains greater skill sets (Shapiro & Martin, 2014). Multiple sporting activities help a child’s ability to handle conflict and emotional highs and lows can be developed through sports. There are also some specific skills acquired in sports by children. These skills sets include coordination, muscular strength, agility, emotional control, and a higher enjoyment of sports.
A child’s self-perception and social well-being can be enhanced through sports.
Early involvement in multiple sporting activities is beneficial for personal and professional development of a child and in later life as an adult. Young athletes develop into professional elite athletes when they participate in multiple sports from early ages. In 2013, the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine Established that most of the college athletes have multisport backgrounds, with 88% having participated in two or more sport during childhood (Sagas, 2014). Regular participations in in a multiplicity of sports yield many physical, psychosomatic as well as social benefits both in the short and long term developments as well as enhancement of possibility of a successful future involvement in leisure and competitive sports.
Alfermann, D., Stambulova, N., & Zemaityte, A. (2004). Reactions to sports career termination:
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Hastie, P. A. (1998). Skill and tactical development during a sport education season. Research Quarterly For Exercise and Sport, 69(4), 368-379.
Sagas, M. (2012). What Does the Science Say About Athletic Development in Children?
Shapiro, D. R., & Martin, J. J. (2014). The relationships among sport self-perceptions and social well-being in athletes with physical disabilities. Disability And Health Journal, 7(1), 42- 48.
Soyer, F. (2012). The effects of positive and negative emotionality on the satisfaction of sport: a research on elite athletes. Collegium Antropologicum, 36(3), 937-943.
Vast, R. L., Young, R. L., & Thomas, P. R. (2010). Emotions in sport: Perceived effects on attention, concentration, and performance. Australian Psychologist, 45(2), 132-140.