Cross training vs. Sports specialization

Jimmy just turned 13, he told me after he came back from his Fall basketball tournament. Today he has a game with his other basketball team. Tomorrow he has a double header against 2 teams from NY. At one point in the year he will be on 3 teams simultaneously. He doesn’t play any other organized sports.

This isn’t terribly different from other kids Jimmy’s age, however it does bring up an interesting point about the principle of specificity. It more or less states that when the body is placed under some form of stress, it starts to make adaptations that will allow the body to get better at withstanding that specific form of stress in the future. Simply speaking, it makes sense that if Jimmy wants to get better at basketball he should play more basketball!

However, Jimmy’s basketball skill set could benefit from a more diversified portfolio. His ankles are below average in both stability and mobility, his lateral movement is weak, and frequently complains of shin splints. The issue with specializing too early and too young is overuse injures commonly seen in older athletes. This is due to sport specific movement patterns repeated too often. Playing the same sport month after month year after year is subjecting the athlete to mental exhaustion and overuse injuries. Other sports would expose Jimmy to different movement patterns, and give him a break from basketball for a few months out of the year.

Happy training.

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