Specialization vs. Generalization

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, July/August 2015.

During their high-school years, I trained two brothers. They were bright and athletic. When I first met them when they were in middle school, they mentioned a desire to play basketball at Stanford University in the future. Despite their similarities, they differed. Everything appeared to be easy for the older brother, whereas the younger brother tended to work harder. The older brother had varied interests, whereas the young brother focused more on basketball. The older brother was regarded as the better player almost until the day that he quit competitive basketball, but it was the younger brother who set records at his university and played professionally. The older brother, when he chose to quit basketball, pursued his other interests in music and found success.  […]

The Irony of Childhood Physical Activity

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, November/December 2014.

When the recess bell rings, young children run around, playing tag, hopscotch, kickball, or hanging on the monkey bars. Chip Conrad, owner of Bodytribe Fitness, wrote, “Recess is strength, mobility and creativity in action, in demand, in flux.” During these recess games, children learn to move through interactions with other children, the environment, and different tasks. They develop movement literacy. When they play tag, children run, cut, juke, evade, skip, hop, jump, lean, fake, and more in an effort to avoid being tagged or to tag another child. Nobody has to teach these children how to perform these movements. The playground is the teacher, and their learning is bound only by their imagination and willingness to experiment.  […]

Early Specialization Too Soon

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports and Fitness, May/June 2013.

As a seventh grader dribbled around his back and attacked the basket during a middle school championship game, the parents commented to each other about the quality of play. One mother explained that several players played on a year-round competitive team in addition to their school team. The year-round play likely helped their team win the game and the championship. Their skills were a little more advanced than their opponent; they made some free throws, and they made better decisions in 2v1 fast breaks. Of course, they also may have won because one player had more facial hair than I had when I graduated from high school or because they had the tallest, most coordinated player on the court. They also may have been lucky, as this was the first time in two seasons and four games that they had won against this opponent.  […]

Specialization and Training Volumes: What does it all mean?

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, May/June 2011.

A recent article from the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports titled “Late specialization: the key to success in centimeters, grams, or seconds (cgs) sports” concluded that athletes who specialized later (mid to late teens) fared better than those who specialized in a sport at an earlier age. In truth, the study focused more on training volume, than specialization. […]

Athletes Rushing to Sport-Specific Training Sacrifice Self-Taught Skills and Imagination

Originally published by Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, Summer 2010. The Internet’s interminable need for new and original content makes web sensations out of five-year-old Little Leaguers and eight-year-old basketball stars. This season, various sports sites, including Yahoo! Sports, promoted dribbling sensation Jaylin Fleming as the world’s greatest nine-year-old basketball player. Last year, 6th grader Read more about Athletes Rushing to Sport-Specific Training Sacrifice Self-Taught Skills and Imagination[…]

Play Multiple Sports to Build Athleticism

Note: Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, May 2008 We generally do not allow sports science to interfere with our deeply held beliefs, even when the beliefs are more myth than reality. When I coached in Ireland, the young Irish players believed that basketball greatness was not in their genes. They felt that Read more about Play Multiple Sports to Build Athleticism[…]

Youth Sports: The Sampling Period

Note: Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness in May 2010. Childhood has moved from a time of exploration to a time of preparation, and youth sports epitomize that transition. Playing sports has changed to training for a sport for even young children. Mike Boyle, a well-known strength & conditioning coach in Massachusetts, recently Read more about Youth Sports: The Sampling Period[…]

The Myth of Early Specialization

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness. This summer, Chula Vista Little League won the Little League World Series, and the biography for winning pitcher Kiko Garcia said that he also played club soccer and basketball. In the semi-finals of the United States’ bracket, Chula Vista defeated Warner Robins Little League from Georgia; ESPN Read more about The Myth of Early Specialization[…]