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EAST LANSING, Mich. – Jan. 14 – Noting growing concerns for the health risks to young people who specialize too early and narrowly on a single sport, the Michigan High School Athletic Association is creating a task force to work throughout 2016 on promoting the benefits of multi-sport participation.
The task force is expected to develop strategies and tactics for the MHSAA and its member schools to deliver to coaches, athletes and parents that will demonstrate the high risks and limited rewards of early and intense focus on a single sport. A January 2017 campaign launch is anticipated.
The task force will be small in number but consist of both administrators and coaches who represent the diversity of schools and communities in Michigan. Their discussions will be monitored by MHSAA communications staff, who will be designing tactics to implement the ideas and initiatives that the task force discusses.
“For years it seemed educators were alone in promoting the multi-sport experience as the best for young people,” MHSAA Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts said. “Rather suddenly, these voices have been joined by high-profile coaches and athletes and supported by a growing body of research.
“Major college football coaches, members of the USA Women’s World Cup Soccer championship team, Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz, PGA golfer Jordan Spieth and others demonstrate to us that the multi-sport experience is the healthiest and happiest way to participate in youth sports.”
More than 40 national and international sports organizations have joined a movement called “Project Play” which advocates the multi-sport experience as the safer, healthier and happier sports participation journey. The task force also will benefit from its relationship with the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University and with Sparrow Health Systems.
“The risks of over-specialization in sports – that is, a focus too early and too intense on a single sport – are greater than all other youth sports health risks combined,” Roberts added. “They need at least as much attention as we’ve brought to reducing the risks of heat stroke, cardiac episodes and concussions.”
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,400 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.4 million spectators each year.