Sport Nova Scotia is launching a new campaign aimed at creating awareness surrounding the dangers of early sport specialization.
Working in partnership with Soccer Nova Scotia and Hockey Nova Scotia, they hope to target parents of athletes aged 12 and under and educate them about the negative effects of pushing kids to go “all in” too early in their development.
“We see a new article every week about how early sport specialization is careless and dangerous in some cases, but not everyone is aware of that. Even coaches aren’t aware of that,” said Carolyn Townsend, communications director with Sport Nova Scotia.
She said parents are often susceptible to peer pressure and the fear of their kids falling behind.
“Looking at the evidence shows take a breath, take a break from your sport, give your kid the best chance that you can.”
Darren Cossar, executive director with Hockey Nova Scotia said there’s a number of misconceptions surrounding early sport specialization, namely that if parents want to cultivate the next sports phenom, they need to get their kids started early.
“When we look at players like Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon, they’ve all played other sports, they took a break from hockey,” Cossar said.
“Studies consistently document that multi-sport play is the way to go, that the children who are being active in a variety of ways are the ones who thrive, not only in sport but in life.”
Early sport specialization can also have negative effects on a child’s body and can lead to long-term health complications.
“Their body is growing and developing, the consistent repetition of one sport, the use of the same muscles all the time can be dangerous to a young body,” said Cossar.
On top of all that, athletes who commit to one sport at an early age also have a tendency to get “burned out”, something Soccer Nova Scotia executive director Brad Lawlor said he’s seen all too much.
“I’ve seen situations with very talented individuals, that we felt were super promising when we saw them at 13, 14, and would automatically disappear at 15,” Lawlor said.
“It would come back to the point that after talking to the parents, talking to the kids, that he or she was burned out and just wanted to try a different sport.”
He said parents, and even coaches, are lead to believe that more is better and that they are giving the child an edge by narrowing in on one sport.
“We are creating a generation of injured, burned out kids who stop sports altogether, leading to a lifetime of health issues.”
The campaign, titled “Get More From Sport”, officially launched on October 24.
Parents are encouraged to visit the website for more information. They can also take a test on whether or not they’re making the right decisions for their young athlete’s development.
“The goal of the campaign is for every parent of an athlete aged 12 or under to visit the site – see the evidence, read the facts, take the test,” said Sport Nova Scotia’s director of sport development, Amy Walsh.
“Hopefully, the grown-ups will worry less about the score, the level, or ‘getting ahead,’ and simply foster a love of sport that keeps children active for years.”