Sports are a popular pastime among all ages and types of people. People not only participate in them for fun, but also for money, physical fitness, rush of competition, and for many other personal reasons. Playing sports is especially common among young people in schools. Athletics are great and enjoyable for many reasons, but there can be a point where sports participation can go too far and become negative for children and adults. Sports specialization for young people is an increasing trend that results in sports having a negative impact on individuals and society.
Sports specialization among young people is when a child or teenager trains for and competes in only one sport. They work extremely hard year-round in order to become well-rounded in every aspect of the game. They make sacrifices and put their health in jeopardy in order to become the ultimate participant in their sport. One of the many young athletes who is only participating in and focusing on one sport is fifteen-year-old OJ Mayo from Cincinnati, Ohio. He is the young talented athlete who is predicted to be the next LeBron James in the National Basketball Association (NBA). This young athlete provides evidence of striving for perfection in this single sport when reviewing his daily schedule versus that of his siblings. He says, “The other kids go home and sleep. I come back to the gym” (Thompson, 2004). He is obviously putting forth a lot of effort in his sport to become successful at an early age.
Not only is this young athlete a single sport athlete, but also Mayo provides a prime example of why this trend is occurring. The reason is primarily because of the increase in the commercialization of sports. The media are taking youth sports and broadcasting information about them as though the young people were professional athletes. The fact that young people now have the opportunity to get into professional sports at a younger age now encourages this trend. If a young person is very successful at a sport, the media will rave on about them and the publicity will only force them to work harder. Freddy Adu, a thirteen-year-old soccer sensation, is getting large amounts of publicity for his remarkable skills (Goodall, 2003). He has been featured in Sports Illustrated where he was referred to as “the prodigy of American soccer” (Wahl, 2003). Newsweek has also included articles about this remarkable soccer player, calling him “a preteen phenom” (Starr, 2004). ESPN Soccernet also reported information about his amazing skills (Goodall, 2003). The publicity of Adu is making this young athlete a star and keeping other young athletes focused on similar opportunities for themselves.
All of the publicity that is attained by success, and the possibility of this success, places a great deal of pressure and stress on these young single-sport athletes. This stress and pressure takes the fun out of some sports. Youth sports are becoming...