There has been a rising trend in placing kids in year-round developmental leagues at a very young age. Often parents are encouraged to have their kids specialize in a particular sport so they have the best chance of progressing to high levels. These teams tend to be hyper-organized and very command oriented with athletes that are as young as five years old. Studies are suggesting that this practice of specialization is not beneficial and may even cause injuries to these youngsters. Structured practice and training three times a week at a very young age may cause wear and tear injuries, concussions or even emotional stress and pressure that may eventually lead to them dropping out by age 13.
On the other hand, semi-structured and free play may encourage young athletes to develop adaptability, creativity, and allow them to find out what they truly love. Playing multiple sports may also give young athletes more experience making them more adaptable off and on the field. Learning different body movements from different sports will allow them to apply all of their knowledge when they eventually choose to specialize in a sport .
One last note, taking a look at various professional athletes reveals that many of them grew up in less-structure sports atmospheres. Many of the best soccer players played in the streets with their friends practicing 'cool' tricks and having fun. Many of the best basketball players grew up playing pick-up games until reaching the college or high-school levels.
We would like to know your opinions? Do you believe kids should be started in competitive leagues at a young age?