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So You Choose Sport Specialization

Nikki German, Ph.D., ATC, Program Director, Master of Athletic Training, Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, NDSU

Considerable research details the negative effects of sport specialization and the many benefits of being a diverse athlete playing multiple sports.

If parents decide that sport specialization is right for their child, they must consider the total number of hours in practice, games and travel; the frequency and duration of time away from the sport; the time away from family and friends; the stress of meeting parent expectations; and the financial commitment. Most experts recommend delaying sport specialization until the middle teen years so that children have the opportunity to experience a variety of sports and are better able to handle the workload and stress of specializing in a single sport.

Experts recommended that children participate in a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day. This activity may be in the form of general play, recess, physical activity classes or organized sports. In addition to the physical benefits of activity, participating in activity helps children develop problem-solving skills, builds self-confidence, teaches teamwork, and improves mental and emotional health.

While participating in recreation and sports activities offers tremendous benefits, the potential exists for injury to occur. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a significant increase in injuries directly related to participating in youth sports in the last 10 years. As parents, we want our children to be active and participate in sports, but we also want them to be safe.

Sport Specialization

For more information about sport safety, visit the STOP Sport Injuries website at

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