Coach's Clipboard on sports specialization: Should your kid play just one sport?

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Does your child play a sport and excel on the field or court?  Maybe they’re one of the best players on the team.  That makes some parents wonder if their young athlete should focus on the one sport they are talented in.  For the Coach’s Clipboard, retired Major League catcher, Chad Moeller, addresses the subject of sports specialization.

Moeller says this is a subject parents in Arizona, and other states with year-round nice weather, face more than others where a change of seasons limits sporting options. 

“On the East Coast, the weather changes.  They play baseball in the spring, basketball in the winter, football in the fall.  It makes it very simple because of the temperature. You can’t go outside in December and play sports like baseball. Here in Arizona we can.”

But Moeller does not recommend kids specialize in one sport early on.  He says when a young athlete plays several sports, they develop skills that can be used in other sports.  For example, when a child learned to play defense on the basketball court, those skills can carry over to fielding a baseball.  The footwork an athlete learns by playing tennis can also be utilized on the football gridiron.

 In an interview from his indoor baseball facility, The Scottsdale Batting Cages, Moeller says he sees kids who specialize in one sport also struggle with over-use injuries, like pitchers’ shoulder problems, and burnout.

“Something that started out as a game now turns into work; and for kids, this isn't supposed to be work. This is supposed to be entertaining.  This is supposed teach athletic ability and get them active and get them off the couch,” state Moeller, adding, “I'm not going to say you can’t do this or shouldn't do this, but make sure it's what you child wants and not what you want as a parent.  I think that's where it gets lost most of the time.  Make sure it's theirs and not yours.”