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Shelby Waldron, J.D. DeFreese, Brian Pietrosimone, Johna Register-Mihalik, and Nikki Barczak

There is a trend towards sport specialization (high intensity, year-round training in a single sport at the exclusion of other sports) in American youth organized sport, as evident in the increasing number of elite youth competitions including Junior Olympics and Amateur Athletic Union ( Wiersma

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Tsz Lun (Alan) Chu, Bailey Sommerfeld, and Tao Zhang

three stages of development that youth athletes pass through—the sampling years (from age 6 to 12 years), specializing years (from age 13 to 15 years), and investment years (age 16 years and above; Fraser-Thomas et al., 2005 ). After trying multiple sports mainly recreationally during the sampling

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Tyler J. Noble and Robert F. Chapman

greater amounts of physical activity and specific training during developmental periods. 1 , 2 Like most sports, marathon running requires specialization and specificity of training on the part of athletes to experience elite-level success. 3 – 5 It has been suggested that it may take as much as of 10

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Mayrena I. Hernandez, Kevin M. Biese, Dan A. Schaefer, Eric G. Post, David R. Bell, and M. Alison Brooks

scholarships have all led to increasing deliberate practice and competition in youth athletics. This trend has been coined sport specialization. 4 – 8 Sport specialization is commonly defined as year-round participation in a single sport with intense, high-volume training. 9 The consequences of sport

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Matthew Burwell, Justin DiSanti, and Tamara C. Valovich McLeod

participation. 2 , 3 In addition, other factors can result in negative associations with sport participation, including sport specialization. It is estimated that 30% of youth athletes engage in sport specialization, 4 a practice defined as “year-round intensive training in a sport at the exclusion of other

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Makenzie A. Schoeff, Katie R. Morey, James E. Johnson, Anya T. Eicher, and Lawrence W. Judge

continue to play with her throughout the spring and summer. For Taylor, it started to feel like the expectation for girls her age was to pick one sport and work to become really good at that sport. Taylor embraced this approach. The Drive to Specialize As her season came to an end playing on the 14U

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Heather K. Larson, Bradley W. Young, Tara-Leigh F. McHugh, and Wendy M. Rodgers

Substantial literature on youth sport has linked early sport specialization to negative consequences, such as burnout and dropout. A consensus statement released by the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) defined early specialization (ES) as follows: (a) involving prepubertal

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Peter A. Hastie

This paper examines the literature within sport pedagogy that addresses early sport specialization. The paper is presented in two sections. First, research on a number of common sense assumptions about early specialization is examined from a pedagogical perspective: (a) Is limiting youths’ experiences to a single sport the best path to elite status? (b) Do early specializers receive better coaching? (c) Do coaches of early specializers have better sport content knowledge? (d) Do coaches of early specializers have better planning behaviors? (e) Do instructional climates differ between specialized and diversified coaching settings? Second, a research agenda from a pedagogical perspective is proposed for answering the questions posed in the first section, as well as the various assessments and protocols that would allow for these questions to be answered.

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Maureen M. Smith

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.

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Richard D. Ginsburg, Steven R. Smith, Nicole Danforth, T. Atilla Ceranoglu, Stephen A. Durant, Hayley Kamin, Rebecca Babcock, Lucy Robin, and Bruce Masek

Two developmental pathways to sport excellence have been described: early specialization and early sampling (Côté, Lidor, & Hackfort, 2009). Despite a common assumption that early specialization (defined as playing one sport exclusively and intensely before age 12) is a necessary precursor to success at the collegiate or professional levels, research to support this assumption remains unclear. To add to this literature, the current study was a survey of 708 minor league professional baseball players on the ages at which they began to specialize in their sport. Results indicated that most players sampled a diversity of sports up through late adolescence. Only 25% of players specialized before the age of 12 and the mean age of specialization was 15 years. Furthermore, those who specialized later were more likely to receive college scholarships. Finally, we examined patterns of specialization as a function of athletes’ home climate and culture. At least in this sample of professional minor league baseball players, an early sampling pathway seems to have fortified success at both the collegiate and professional levels.