Youth Sports: When to specialize?

Youth Sports: When to specialize?

Brenda Villa  /  October 28, 2014

Water polo benefits when kids don’t specialize

Recently, I was interviewed by the Positive Coaching Alliance and the topic of “specialization” was discussed. I didn’t realize I was against it until I saw the interview online.

My experience in youth sports consisted of trying every sport and staying busy. I played softball, soccer, volleyball,  swimming, basketball and water polo, to name just a few. I think playing softball and volleyball helped my throwing technique, I think soccer helped with vision and field awareness, I think basketball helped with positions and team defensive strategies.

Of course at the time I was playing all these sports, I was not thinking about how they would all help me become an Olympic water polo player, instead I was thinking of the friendships and competition I was developing. I think a non-traditional sport like water polo benefits when kids are encouraged to try other new sports at a young age. I do not believe you need to specialize until your 8th grade year and if your goal is to play in college and pursue an athletic scholarship, you should commit more time to the sport you want to pursue in college in your 8th grade year and make sure you research all the information necessary to pursue that goal.

In hindsight, I also believe that I was able to avoid injuries in sports because I was playing different sports and not overusing certain muscle groups.  My hope in bringing up the topic of specialization is to make parents aware of the benefits of trying different sports and the benefits of trying non-traditional sports like water polo that are continuously growing in colleges across the U.S.  I have to admit there is some self interest here, I hope I also get more inquiries about our beginner water polo program and see more kids out at Belle Haven trying water polo!