The trend towards early specialization and an increasingly professionalized approach to youth sports is not supported by hard scientific evidence about youth talent development. Instead it appears to be driven by folklore, myths and half-truths, a herd mentality, the ever-burgeoning youth sports industry, and by adults more intent on winning than acting in the best long-term interests of children.
There are seven reasons why specializing early and playing on travel or select teams at an early age (before grade six) is a bad idea:
- It interferes with healthy child development;
- It doesn't guarantee future athletic success;
- It hurts, rather than helps, skill development;
- It is elitist;
- It leads to overuse injuries;
- It promotes adult values and interests, not those of children; and
- It increases the chances that the child will suffer burnout and quit sports.