Of all the forces working to cause adolescent youth to focus on a single sport to the exclusion of others, one of the most insidious and impactful is “neighborhood pressure.” It’s “keeping up with the Joneses” applied to youth sports instead of house, car and boat.
Some parents feel like bad people if they do not only facilitate but also force their child to keep climbing the sports ladder, moving from neighborhood team to select team to elite team, and from a season experience to a year-round commitment, and from local participation to a schedule that requires out-of-town travel for both games and practices.
“If the neighbors do this for their son or daughter, what kind of parent am I if I don’t do this for my child?”
Actually, the answer is that you are the smart parent – one who has read the literature and has learned that early and intense sport specialization is not best for your child’s future in sports or in life. Sport specialization is a less healthy experience – physically, emotionally and socially – for children ages 6 to 12; and it is no more likely to result in success in high school sports or a college athletic scholarship than a balanced youth sports experience.
All the intense specialization is certain to do is cost much more money than a college scholarship is worth, assuage parents’ consciences and give them topics to talk about at neighborhood gatherings.