It is easy to want to allow your children to specialize in softball when coaches are praising their abilities and their friends are playing all the time. There are some things that you might want to consider in softball early specialization though before following through with year round softball training.
Balance in Life and Sport
Athletes who spend the whole year training for softball when they are younger than 14 are missing out on activities that their non softball friends are participating in.
Ability to Reach their Full Potential
Young athletes who are focused on one sport are less likely to develop athletic abilities that will allow them to reach their full potential in softball. Coordination, Balance Speed and Agility are all developed through various sports such as basketball, hockey, racket sports, gymnastics etc. Allowing your children to be involved in more than one sport will help them to become complete athletes.
The Evidence on Softball Early Specialization
Ability to Reach Higher Performance Levels
Athletes who are introduced to specialization in softball at the right time will have the ability to reach higher performance levels due to the following reasons:
- less likely to drop out early
- less chance of burnout
- higher self efficacy levels due to multi sport achievements
Less Reliance on One Sport
Playing more than one sport during the early youth years helps young athletes to develop self esteem based on experience with many activities. If your child is only playing softball, what happens if for some reason they decide that they do not want to play any more because their friends are not playing. Or what if they do not make the team that they wanted to be on? By having abilities in other sports, their possibility of continuing to be involved in sports are higher which only enhances their quality of life.
More Likely to Remain Active for Life
Athletes who specialize too early may chose not to participate in any sport due to their reliance on softball as their sole athletic ability. They may be burned out all together and want to get as far away from sports as possible or may be simply tired of having to commit to one sport and want the freedom of just doing what they want when they want to do it. Softball early specialization can have a negative effect on staying active for life due to burnout and overtraining.
It Just Makes Sense
To spend the amount of time on softball that early specialization requires, costs time and money. It is a hard decision to make when it is the way many teams currently operate. The unfortunate part is that during the early years, is when so many athletic, cognitive and psychological abilities are being developed. To be limited to only one sport such as softball, some of the skills developed through sport might be left out.
The Science of Sport has a great article on Early specialization from the experts.