Early Sport Specialization

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10 Nov Early Sport Specialization

I don’t believe in the US Soccer Development Academy philosophy of one sport, one team 4-6 days a week starting at as young as 11. They call it “no outside activity/competitions“. I call it tearing up my parent card. I believe it harms a child’s identity development and even has biblical reference to being immoral.

First, I believe it harms a child’s identity. Brett Ledbetter refers to it as “identity foreclosure”.  This is when a child builds his whole identity around the sport they play.  Who we are as a person is more important than who we are as a player. Identity foreclosure happens when we lose that perspective and put the emphasis on what we do as a player and the results we get (or don’t get) over who we are as a person.

Here Brett explains it pretty well.

When we play one sport only we associate our who identify with that sport. If we play well we are a good person if we play poorly we are not. The scariest part of this to me is what happens when we devote our child’s whole life to the game and then they get injured, or they lose interest or don’t make the team?

I love this quote.

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Be careful because today I’m calling people to repentance! Bare with me on this one. I’m not attempting to preach, but I feel that there are some parallels between the parable of the talents and the DA.

Matthew 25:14-30  is the parable of the talents.  In the parable, a master gives 3 different servants 3 different quantities of talents. One servant is given 5 and develops 5 more. The second is given 2 and develops 2 more. The third is given 1 and he “barries” the talent, upsetting the master in the process.  I’m no pasture, but if you ask me this story is a reference to God’s expectation that we will develop and use all the talents we have been given.

Being told not to develop your ability to play volleyball, piano, acting, or manage money because you have to be at soccer practice 4-6 nights a week is wrong. To me, following the structure of the DA, is similar to a servant being given 5 talents developing 1 of them and burring the other 4. I have to believe the master would be upset with us.

Don’t worry I’m no hypocrite. I practice what I preach. My kids don’t play in the DA, but they do play soccer. Let’s use my son as an example because he appears to have many talents. My sons week looks like this, Piano on Monday, Soccer and chess club on Tuesday, A-team, scouts, and church activities on Wednesday, Art club on Thursday, soccer on Saturday and Sunday back to church. If I put him in the development academy next year he would have to quit all of it, except maybe chess club because that is before school. Worth it? No.

I love this game, but soccer doesn’t save the world. There is more to life than soccer. Let’s have our kids develop all their talents and their full identity.


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