I am a strong proponent of athletics and an even stronger proponent for how sports help prepare kids for the future by teaching them the importance of hard work, teamwork, discipline, persistence and goal-setting. (In fact, I wrote a book on the topic, Coached for Life.)
No, what I’m concerned about is the growing tendency for many children to specialize in a single sport at an early age. In my era (I’m now almost 50 years old), it was not uncommon for kids to play multiple sports depending upon the season of the year. For example, football was played in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball or track and field in the spring.
For many kids today the aforementioned sports in addition to soccer, hockey, volleyball, tennis as well as scores of other sports have become year-round activities. Many players (and their parents) feel as though they have no choice but to specialize in a single sport if they hope to make the varsity team or earn a college scholarship.
I understand and empathize with this desire but it is shortsighted. In my work as a professional futurist I’ve become convinced that children—and adults—need to become more multi-disciplinary in nature and less specialized.
The world is moving so fast and change is occurring at such a rapid pace that the odds are growing increasingly greater everyday that today’s specialized activities will become yesterday’s outdated dinosaur (think Blockbusters, Borders Bookstores, Blackberry, Nokia and Kodak, etc.).
The key to survival is flexibility and adaptability.
The metaphor to sports is simple: By specializing in a single sport your muscles, movements and performance become fine-tuned to the nuances of that sport. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but what happens when the world changes and your sport—and the skills associated with it—are no longer valued, appreciated or needed? Will your child be nimble enough to retrain him or herself and become competitive in a new game?
The more you can introduce your child and yourself to change—be in sports or in life—the better off you and they will be. (For the record, though, even if you adopt this mind-set change can still be painful. I know this for a fact because my ass still hasn’t recovered from the beating it took last winter when I tried to transition from downhill skiing to snowboarding.)
Interested in other sports-related metaphors about the future? Check out this recent post: