Chris Golic: Parents should stop forcing kids into one sport

NFL Evolution will feature a guest columnist every Tuesday, each with a different viewpoint of player health and safety from the youth level to pro football.

By Chris Golic, NFL Health Playbook columnist

Everyone seems to agree that sports specialization is a bad idea for young athletes.

Recently the likes of JJ Watt and others have been speaking out against it. If you Google the subject, there are endless articles giving us a litany of reasons why not to participate in one sport year round.

It's time for parents and coaches alike to stand up and say enough is enough. This will take a certain amount of courage because it's hard to break away from the ranks and do it differently than everyone else seems to be doing it.

We need some strong brave souls to lead the way and go a different direction with youth sports. It's time to make sports about the fun and fitness again without the adult agendas sucking the fun out of it all.

As parents I think we owe it to our children to allow them the opportunity to try as many things as they are interested in trying without the pressure of winning and performing at a certain level. Why not let them have fun and find their passion on their own path? We had our turn it's their time now.

The part especially perplexing is that the adults who are forcing this specialization on the young athletes didn't grow up like this. This way of thinking didn't exist when we were kids. We were allowed to ride our bikes until dark and play sports for the love of the game. There were no agendas and the sports we participated in changed with the months on the calendar.

We as parents now find it necessary to micromanage every little detail of childhood from play dates to club teams and personal trainers. We work hard to manufacturer everything instead of letting it happen on its own.

As parents it's exhausting and expensive and terrible for the kids who are forced to live constantly on the go. Recent statistics show that specialization is not successful and we are ending up with a nation of burned out and injured young athletes.

When my children were young they tried everything. Hockey, swimming, football, baseball, golf, horseback riding, soccer, lacrosse, basketball, tennis, and skiing along with good old street hockey in the neighborhood with friends. I am happy they wanted to try so many things and somehow navigated their way to the sports that they were most passionate about playing.

The key is that it's their passion not something predetermined for them by the adults in their life. I cannot think of a bigger drudgery than someone telling someone else how they should spend all of their free time.

Whether parents see "potential" or not, they need to let the athlete find their own way. Quite often people are good at one thing when they are seven and something different at 17. Also sports tend to complement each other as far as skill development, so why stunt that growth?

My hope is that we can turn the page and bring the focus of youth sports back to fun and fitness. Unfortunately, though, a nagging voice in the back of my mind says that the big money of sports has firmly planted its roots at the youth level and won't let go. As a result we will keep convincing ourselves that we have it all figured out and what we are doing the right thing for the kids.

As parents it's our move and its time make a change. Are you in?

Christine Golic is the NFL's Consultant on Youth Football and a member of the Heads Up Football Advisory Committee. Golic is the wife of Mike Golic, a nine year NFL veteran and co-host of ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike in the Morning," and mother of two sons who played college football at Notre Dame and a daughter who is a swimmer at Notre Dame.

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