Does Early Specialization Insure Success in Golf?
Tue Jul 23, 2013 by Dave Phillips
If you’re a parent like me and your kids have a passion for sports, you will do anything to help them fulfill their passion. This, however, is where the problem can start.
When you were a kid, life was a lot different. I bet your typical day wasn't’ filled with cell phones, video games, on demand TV and website surfing. The electronic age was not what it is today. You probably spent hours running around the neighborhood with your friends climbing, throwing, kicking, jumping and playing every sport that crossed your path. Those natural childhood activities helped your coordination and may have helped you become a multi-sport athlete.
Unfortunately, a disturbing pattern is emerging today and all too often, parents are to blame. Many kids are focused on one sport at a much earlier age and as a result, they may be setting themselves up for failure or putting themselves at greater risk of injury.
Even though some sports like gymnastics and swimming practically require early specialization for elite level success, athletes that play these sports are seldom competitive past their 20’s. Of course there are the outliers that excel beyond their years but golf is a lifetime sport and it requires a different set of rules.
So what are some of the potential consequences of early specialization?
- Participation in a single sport from an early age can restrict skill and speed development.
- Athletes can end up lacking basic motor skills to participate in other sports.
- High intensity training in one sport increases the risk of injury and can actually delay physical development.
- Increased pressure to succeed at a young age can result in psychological distress and make the sport less enjoyable.
- Social isolation due to limited interaction with peers.
As parents, are we making matters worse by buying into early specialization? Indeed we are. But there are a number of factors helping us buy into it.
- The commercialization of sport along with the glorification of athletes and their lifestyle. We all know this is happening but I cant’ tell you how many parents I speak with who want their child to be the next Tiger, Rory or Yani Seng.
- We as parents want our children to have every opportunity to succeed and we are committed to providing them with the best private coaching, camps and equipment. We often live our dreams of stardom through our children, which simply isn’t fair. Their success is more dependent on their passion for the sport than yours.
- College coaches and recruiters are paid more and more to succeed, as the business of sport is just that, a business. Colleges make millions off our sons and daughters and the lure of a college scholarship is often enough for us to drive our children to succeed.
I have interviewed many PGA Tour players and the overwhelming majority were multi-sport athletes before gravitating toward golf later in life. There is no rush to achieve success in a sport that spans a lifetime. In fact, the average age of the 25 graduates from the Web.com Tour to the PGA Tour in 2012 was 30 years of age!
So stop the madness and create a multi-sport athlete that enjoys sport and life first. If they choose to specialize, you will know when they’re ready and so will a good coach.
“ If you can beat everyone in your town, everyone in your city, everyone in your state, everyone on an a national level, you’re probably good enough to turn pro”