EARLY SPECIALIZATION IS NOT A REQUIREMENT FOR SPORTING SUCCESS
Moesch, K., Elbe, A.-M., Hauge, M.-L. T., & Wikman, J. M. (2011). Late specialization: The key to success in centimeters, grams, or seconds (CGS) sports. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 21, e282-e290.
A controversial question within elite sports is whether young athletes need to specialize early, as suggested by Ericsson et al., or if it is more beneficial to follow the path of early diversification which includes sampling different sport experiences during childhood and specializing later on during adolescence. Based on a Danish sample of 148 elite and 95 near-elite athletes from CGS sports (sports measured in centimeters, grams, or seconds), this study investigated group differences concerning accumulated practice hours during the early stages of the career, involvement in other sports, and career development. It determined whether or not those variables predicted membership in the elite group.
Elite athletes specialized at a later age and trained less in childhood. However, elite athletes were shown to intensify their training regime during late adolescence more than their near-elite peers. The involvement in other sports neither differed between the groups nor predicted success. It was concluded that factors related to the organization of practice during the mid-teens seems to be crucial for international success within CGS sports.
Implication. An athlete's late-teen or adult success is not dependent upon an intense early specialization. It seems that when athletes commit themselves to dedicated training at a stage of acceptable maturity they then have the potential to excel. Participating in a variety of sports through the developmental years probably assists in exercise-stimulated growth and forms a basis upon which intense specialization could then be developed.
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