“I played everything. I played lacrosse, baseball, basketball, soccer, track and field. I was a big believer that you played hockey in the winter and when the season was over you hung up your skates and played something else.”~Wayne Gretzky
As if this quote from The Great One isn’t enough to get your attention! This topic of year round development or early specialization seems to come up over and over again. The studies are out and the experts have spoken, early specialization will do more harm than good.
Overuse injuries are real; calf and ankle strains from running, rotator cuff strains from throwing, hip impingement from skating, the list goes on. The battle of the strength and conditioning coach is slowly becoming one of joint mechanic maintenance instead of strength and power development. When I get a hockey player during their offseason and preseason, lots of times they are in and out of the facility from one camp to the next trying to improve skating, stick handling, shooting etc. This forces me to change their programming as so burnout does not occur before September!
I found this quote from an ESPN study from 2015 that started with the injury to Julius Randle when he harmlessly landed after completing a pass. First game in the NBA and breaks his leg, how does that happen?
“Look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”~Jacob Riis
Bones get strong with a healthy diet and strength training. Players in all sports are starting to step away from the traditional use of strength work to more sport specific methods, again adding the same repeated movements all year round.
What some athletes fail to remember is that multiple sports will transfer skills, motor patterns and joint strength to each other. This is amazing stuff! Take a look at what Urban Mayer did at Ohio States for his football team.
What I am trying to say is diversity in sport and activity through the developmental years of life are very important. The same way that the education system forces maths, sciences, and languages in schools during the developmental years of adolescence, this sets the stage or foundation if you will for whatever challenges are ahead. So get out and play. Become a truly multi-dimensional athlete; physical literacy provides the skill set for optimal achievement in sport, as well as long term life success.
Andrew LoCurto BKin, CSCS, CPT