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Specialisation in one sport at a young age. | Coaching Children (Ages 5-12)

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Posted in: All other coaching children topics

Specialisation in one sport at a young age.

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  • pippaglen

    Whilst reading through England athletics email I found a great article that I thought I might share with you all.  

    Specialising children in just one sports at a young age.

    As a multi sports coach I personally feel having a go at every sport is alway better than having only tried one sport.  I feel that this way you get the best of both worlds, you find a sport you love, enjoy and with time become  really good instead of being pushed into a sport because your parents want you too.  I have seen parent's push children into athletics because when they were younger that's what they did.  I have coached a child that hated athletics and all they wanted to do was play football now how could I compete with football ?  I did I made sessions fun yet competitive. The athetes turned out to become a great  endurance athlete this helped him on pitch ready for football season. Win, win for all Coach happy, athlete happy, parents happy, football coach happy and also learned a whole new sport. 

    Take a look at the article and comment. 


    • Should young children really be put under pressure to specialise in one sport? 
    • What physical and mental impact does this have on your child/athletes?
    • Is this why elite athletes retire at such a young age in sports, over training there body's from a young age. 

  • David_T

    Great Emma, I couldn't agree more. 

    I was forwarded an email the other day - East Midlands U15 and U13 Elite endurance group.

    How many things can you have wrong in one email title I wondered!!


  • David_T

    Shameless link to my blog on that topic too...


  • pippaglen


    I will take a look when I get five, I find this subject very interesting and think more information should accessible for parents so they are aware of the pros and cons of training at a young age and what impact this has on the body and mental health of the child / athlete. 

  • Ralph
    On 13/09/16 11:13 AM, Emma Tomlinson said:

    parents so they are aware of the pros and cons

    The flaw in that logic is, the very parents that need that information, are the very parents that are going to ignore it

  • pippaglen

    Maybe this is the case, however it's about re-educating parent's, athletes and coaches and most of all its about what's best for the child/ athlete protecting the young athlete from injury,  over training. 

  • Ralph
    On 14/09/16 8:16 AM, Emma Tomlinson said:

    however it's about re-educating parent's,

    On the whole, parents at elite level professional sports that I've been involved in, always know more than the coaches and educating the parents takes away from your actual job of coaching the children.

    Highly competitive parents, of which, at elite level the majority are, are not interested in what the coach thinks is best for the child, they believe any loss is down to lack of effort or belief and, it's the coaches fault.

    With injury prevention, I worked with one high level national club, where the parental committee turned down a free sports physio service “as they felt it was the individuals responsibility for injuries” and a weak head coach cowed down to that, I resigned after 6 weeks. I could go on with endless stories similar.

    As much as I admire and respect all your comments and ethics on CC, including this one, you’re a Professional and should have ethics, parents are amateurs and many have very few ethics. Hard for you to believe unless you could over hear what they say behind your back, or you’ve been coaching as long as I have and have chatted to many high level coaches.

    I wish you luck in your belief in quality parents, they are as rare as Olympic Champions. They do exist, I hope you find them.

  • pippaglen

    Thanks for your comments and feedback regarding this post. 

     In my nearly 9 years of coaching, probably not as long as yourself.  I  have too been through trials and tribulations of the coaching world with parents and coaches talking behind my back, parents wanting child to run in competition 2 years above there competing age then telling other parents I'm a bad coach for not allowing this.

    Athletes having strops in the middle of a track race due to not winning, parents swaring at son or daughter for not winning and blaming my coaching and other athlete's for not winning. I have been told by other coaches that as a coach I shouldn't be making sessions fun I should be running 8 to 11 year olds into the ground to make them better athletes. I have had my fare share of ups and downs as a coach.  However I have definitely risen above this.

     I'm not naive to think that these situations aren't taking place in the elite world. Over the past 16 months I've being working with Paralympic and invictus athletes with head throws coach. I'm fully aware of what goes on further along the coaching chain and how much more pressure coaches are under to get great results. England has proven we have great athletes in both Paralympics and Olympic game's this is down to athletes and coaches the time and effort from both side. 

    What works well? This for me has worked.  When introducing new athletes 8 to 11 yr olds into athletics I have invited parents to a once a week meeting for 6 week this giving parents the chance to get to know me and other coaches for parents to voice there opinions, for me as a coach to listen to parents questions.  what parents are to expect from training session and what not to expect. Reminding parents there son or daughter can have fun and also train hard.  From this parents can then decide whether or not to join the club and if this is the right sport or the right coach for there child.

  • Ralph
    On 15/09/16 9:39 PM, Emma Tomlinson said:

    From this parents can then decide whether or not to join the club and if this is the right sport or the right coach for there child.

    i think your position on this, is the only reasonable, rational strategy any coach can do with the parent paradox. those that get you, stay, those that don't? well you don't want them to stay anyway. as i say, good luck with the ones that get under that radar. 

  • Hi guys, completely agree with your logic and process Emma, with the parent meetings. The 6 week time frame is perfect as it allows you as a coach reasonable time to actually implement your desired practices and reasonable time for that to be judged and discussed with a parent.
    I think actually getting in front of all parents upon signing with a club and outlining the coaching philosophy of the club is hugely important. The club collectively has to be strong and aligned in what all they preach and of course all coaches must practice it. A collective club 'parent evening induction' style event has far more weight than if a single coach attempts to stand up and speak to thier parents, as obviously the coach has the backing of the club. More voices are stronger.
    Also Ralph is very right, those that will get on board are the types of people you want. You will not miss those that do not agree. 

  • pippaglen

    Thank you for your input, great to see so many coaches with different perspective on things.  If we all had the same ideas and and same coaching ways training for athletes would be very boring.

  • Ralph
    On 24/09/16 4:01 PM, Emma Tomlinson said:

    If we all had the same ideas and and same coaching ways training for athletes would be very boring.

    of course, you know have the same problem with expecting everyone to adhere to the "same boring" philosophy?

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