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Early Sports Specialization in Youth Girls Soccer Players

Published on April 18, 2018

Early sport specialization is becoming more and more common among youth athletes and has been a big topic in the youth sports world recently.

Youth female athletes, who train excessively and adopt poor diets, are at risk of the female athlete triad, overuse injury, mental health issues, and over training.

The occurrence of one or more of the issues listed above can lead to quitting sports all together (which is the last thing we want).

With that being said, I am a huge promoter of youth athletes playing multiple sports.

Playing other sports forces their bodies to use different muscles that will decrease overuse injuries, and will make them better all-around athletes.

That second sport doesn’t need to be organized or competitive. If they only want to play soccer, great, but they should also partake in playing other sports for fun. It could be going out to shoot hoops or going to the park to play tennis or throw the ball around.

Regardless of whether they play multiple sports or not, I wanted to point out some general guidelines to follow that will help prevent overuse injuries, and help prevent burnout from their sport(s).

General recommendations

  • Young athletes should be given the opportunity to make their own decisions concerning their participation in sport.
  • A balanced lifestyle should be promoted, which includes a variety of social, academic, sports, and leisure activities
  • Ensure caloric intake meets the demands of the athlete’s lifestyle

Sport Specialization

  • Children should be encouraged to play multiple sports, especially before age 13
  • The sporting environment should aim to develop physical and psycho-social attributes in the athlete

Physical Training

  • Provide regular opportunities for free, fun, unstructured play
  • Integrate appropriate strength and conditioning activities 2-3 times per week
  • Total hours of weekly training should not exceed age in years (age 13 not to exceed 13 hours)
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