However, there are also developmental reasons why it is better for the long-term development of players to have a broad range of fun-focussed activities when initially involved in sport.

The most effective sport development and training programs around the world discourage year-round specialization in a single organized sport and, generally, use cross-training methods to develop a full range of skills to prepare young people for specialization at age 15 and older. 7

During the ages of 6-13, children should be encouraged to “sample” and explore a range of different sports, hopefully developing a love of being physically active as well as enjoying the individual sports. Specialising in one sport at this stage of development is not recommended, with “sampling” leading both to a longer engagement with sport (throughout the child’s life) and is also being a consistent factor in creating successful professional players.

“Talent Development” is often used to justify the need for players to specialize from an early stage, although research has concluded that:

Initial proficiency in a motor skill has little relation to later performance. Early mastery pays a dividend for a while, but then others catch up. 8

During this first stage of athletic development, children are learning movement fundamentals as well as the skills associated with particular sports and are also developing their sense of sportsmanship and ethics as well as learning to work as part of a team. Having fun is what engages them with sport and a coach’s focus should be on fostering that enjoyment.

National Association for Sport and Physical Education. Guidelines for Participation in Youth Sport .Programs: Specialization Versus Multi-Sport Participation [Position statement]. Reston, VA: Author; 2010.
United States Anti-Doping Agency, True Sport: What We Stand to Lose in Our Obsession to Win, 2012, p46