While genetics determine an athlete’s potential, nurturing innate abilities in the correct sequence determines how closely the athlete reaches peak potential.
For long-term development, follow the First-Things-First theory.
Studies indicate, and parents can verify, that the creativity of free play—without interference from adults—helps kids learn leadership skills, conflict resolution, and problem solving. And for developing motor skills, core strength, agility, balance, and coordination, free play is essential.
Specialization is defined as intense year-round training in one sport while excluding others. Studies as well as observations from coaches verify that playing multiple sports is best for developing both physical and mental literacy in sport as well as decreasing the likelihood for injuries and burnout.
Many experts believe and studies confirm that today’s culture of early sports specialization with an emphasis on year-round structured training is stunting the mental and physical development of youth. Until about age 12, general athleticism—nurtured with free play and multiple sports—should be prioritized over sport-specific skills. Even after the age of 12, free play—without interference from adults—remains important.