Youth sports do not look like they used to. The world of youth athletics has become unbelievably competitive.
In fact, TIME Magazine recently reported that youth sports has become a $15.3 Billion industry.
Over $4 Billion a year are spent on personalized training and coaching for young athletes in the United States alone.
This shows the huge emphasis people have put on today’s youth athletes and their performance in their sports.
Youth sports have changed from being a fun pastime to an ultra-competitive enterprise. Well-intentioned parents and coaches shift their focus to wins and trophies at the expense of fun and development.
Professional sports success and NCAA scholarship awards are parents' dreams...pushed by these youth sport enterprises.
NCAA schools now hand out $3 billion in scholarships a year. And even though only 2% of high school athletes go on to play Division I college sports, it hasn't stopped coaches and parents pushing these youth athletes, no matter what their age, toward that goal.
Parents are being made to feel like they need to have their child 'keep up with' every other youth athlete, so their child doesn't get left behind. Club sport and travel sport coaches are pushing the need for every kid to have to play year round in order to have a chance to get a scholarship.
This is what leads to early sports specialization.
"Although 88% of NCAA Division I athletes played an average of 2 to 3 sports prior, parents and athletes are being led to believe that children must focus only on one sport in order to succeed."
Youth strength training and models of athletic development have become hot topics thanks in part to this shift. This has caused a growing interest in long-term athletic development for youth athletes.
Appropriate exercise selection is also crucial for those young athletes who are often physically underprepared to tolerate the demands of sports.
These high volumes of competition with an absence of preparatory conditioning is causing risk of overuse injuries and burnout. This then leads kids to leave sports at an early age. With this model,
many young athletes, like late maturing kids for example, are not even given the opportunity to reach their potential due to lack of playing time early on.
The facts about early sports specialization that many parents, coaches and organizations don’t know can significantly affect a child’s sports experience. For example, researchers from numerous scientific studies have found that young athletes who participated in their primary sport for more than 8 months in a year were more likely to have overuse injuries.
In order for strength and conditioning professionals to help all youth athletes achieve their full potential, we must develop safe, effective, and balanced programming for them to thrive.
It is important to understand what is happening in youth sports and see what changes need to be made in the current atmosphere to enable more youth athletes to succeed.