Should Kids Specialize in One Sport?

Dr. Angela Seabright
Mekhi Stribling

| 3 min read

Kids playing basketball
As kids grow and identify their interests, some may be drawn to multiple sports while others may only gravitate to one sport or none at all.
When exploring sports and activities for your family, it can be helpful to think of the positives and possible negatives of playing multiple sports or specializing in one.

Playing Multiple Sports

Research has shown that playing multiple sports gives players the ability to use a wide set of skills and become a more well-rounded athlete.
It gives them the opportunity to work different muscle groups and use varied problem-solving skills. For example, a defensive tip they learned playing soccer could benefit them when playing defense in basketball.
A possible downside of playing multiple sports is that schedules can become too demanding. Once one sport ends, the other begins with barely any break in between. For some athletes, seasons can overlap or involve year-round training.
Playing multiple sports also limits the amount of time kids have for training to improve in one sport. If your child has aspirations of making varsity or playing at a collegiate level, playing more than one sport could limit their potential.

Specializing in One Sport

Specializing in a single sport allows your child to heighten their performance in that sport. When they play one sport, their skills will increase with the extra training and coaching. Kids who play Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) leagues or who participate in travel sports spend their time mastering their craft.
Specialization also gives your child more of an opportunity to master one sport, serving as motivation to go to the next level. Achieving success early could motivate them to continue reaching for the next level.
A possible drawback of specializing in one sport is burnout. This happens when the child is overwhelmed and stressed to the point that they lose interest in the sport as a whole. Some signs of burnout include loss of motivation, moodiness and lack of concentration.
Specializing in a single sport could lead to an increased risk of injury, specifically overuse injuries. These are injuries that happen over time and likely take a while to heal. Some examples of overuse injuries are shin splints and elbow, shoulder and hip injuries.

Burnout and Injury Prevention

  • To prevent burnout, particularly if your child is specializing in one sport, give them a proper rest period in between sports seasons.
  • Give kids time to relax and pick up another hobby or interest, or volunteer.
  • Have your child do different exercises to work out new muscle groups. This could not only help them from burning out, but can contribute to improved athletic performance.
  • Make sure kids are stretching properly before each game and that they are practicing consistently and eating healthy.
Whether your child specializes in one sport or plays multiple sports, there is no right answer for everyone. However, being healthy and active will always be a positive aspect in your child’s life.
You might also like …
Photo credit: USAG-Humphreys

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
No Personal Healthcare Advice or Other Advice
This Web site provides general educational information on health-related issues and provides access to health-related resources for the convenience of our users. This site and its health-related information and resources are not a substitute for professional medical advice or for the care that patients receive from their physicians or other health care providers.
This site and its health-related information resources are not meant to be the practice of medicine, the practice of nursing, or to carry out any professional health care advice or service in the state where you live. Nothing in this Web site is to be used for medical or nursing diagnosis or professional treatment.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other licensed health care provider. Always consult your health care provider before beginning any new treatment, or if you have any questions regarding a health condition. You should not disregard medical advice, or delay seeking medical advice, because of something you read in this site.