Talent development and children’s early specialisation in sport in particular, has become a hotly debated issue in the world of sports and strength and conditioning. Personally, I often take on juniors and young adults (from about 12 upwards) looking to gain an extra edge on the course by improving their bodies physical performance. One of the first things that always strikes me is the difference in movement quality, kinesthetic awareness, mobility, co-ordination, and basically overall athleticism between a kid that specialised in one sport and one who played a myriad of sports growing up (for the record the late specialiser is always the one with a much more developed physical athleticism because of this). Additionally, there seems to be a trend of younger and younger children specialising in golf earlier and earlier, when these kids come to me to start physical training they are often lacking basic athletic movement patterns.
I was going to write a whole post on my observations with regards early specialisation, but on reflection I do not specialise in junior coaching/development nor do I have any academic expertise on the subject, so why write a post when I can provide you with bigger and better information from genuine experts on the issue. Without further ado then below are 5 of the best bits I have read recently on the issue of early specialisation in sport:
The Titleist Performance Institute have put up some great work specific to developing young golfers and are the people I consider the industry leaders in developing junior golfers, so first up are two articles from Milo Bryant and Mike Hansen posted to the TPI website. The first examines an awful lot of the literature on the subject whilst the second provides some more realistic and usable advice
Next up is a two part series by Matt Blake posted on Eric Cressey’s blog. This series focuses much more on the specifics of a gym program involved in developing youngsters. A whilst it focuses on baseball development, the physical skills of baseball and golf are largely transferable and I believe the majority of this advice is too.
Lastly is a review of probably one of the most respected pieces of recent research on sports specialisation. It’s a great summary, explains some very clear results and throws up some interesting discussion points on the difference between sports specialisation and high volume practice