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When the Try-Everything Approach Backfires


My youth sports philosophy as a mother has always been rooted in the belief that anti-specialization led to success both on and off the field. Fortunately, this approach has worked well for my eleven year old twin boys from their early years of organized sports until recently. Typically they have played multiple sports each season all year long and loved every minute of it.

My husband and I enjoy supporting their efforts at every field, court and rink. We have seized any and all opportunities for them to try new sports and compete for the love of the game. And while we have no crystal ball in terms of their athletic future, we feel that the more experimentation the better. I have dreaded the time when the boys would have to choose and narrow their activities, when youth sports would become a job.

My anti-specialization philosophy was recently challenged when one of my sons did not make the travel hockey team of his choice. For this son, it was a heartbreaking development as he wanted to continue to play with his twin brother.

However, what started as a nightmare scenario ended up being a positive development in hindsight.  We were prepared to carry down this road of multiple sports commitments and keep all the balls in the air.  But with this closed door, it allowed all of us to take another look at the depth and scope of our sports commitments and recognize that the multi-sport dance could not go on forever. My son chose to drop hockey and focus his attention on soccer. Perhaps serendipitously, within a week my son was asked to play on a premiere club soccer team. This was a welcome distraction from his recent disappointment.

Now (well, at least for this season) he enjoys focusing his energy on just one sport. I have let go of my ardent anti-specialization mindset because it welcomes greater balance for my child and my family and less stress around the weight of hectic schedules, demanding coaches and hours of homework. Now my son brings his full self to soccer and feels confident in the process. He is happy. If somewhere along the way he decides this is not the path for him, at least he has a solid enough foundation in other sports that he can always revisit and not feel like he is starting over.

I have learned to stop fearing that we might make the wrong choice by dropping a sport. It is ok to narrow the field at some point and do what works best for my children instead of holding firm to a specific philosophy that may or may not make sense at a given age. There is no crystal ball!


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