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This article provides a historical overview of the practice of early sport specialization, primarily in the United States. Sport specialization as practiced by young athletes has been a common occurrence in several individual sports for more than 60 years. More recently, focusing on one sport has gained traction as common practice for young athletes involved in team sports. Sport specialization as a topic of research inquiry has been examined by various disciplines in kinesiology to determine the efficacy of the practice, the physiological effects, and the advantages and disadvantages, as well as to offer possible solutions to the drawbacks associated with sport specialization. Popular press outlets, including newspapers, books, magazines, and online sources, have also joined the debate over the merits of sport specialization.
Smith is a professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Science, California State University, Sacramento, CA.