Research in the December 2017 Pediatrics suggests that specializing in a single sport during childhood, compared with sampling a variety of recreational youth sports, may decrease the odds a child will still participate in athletic activities during adolescence.
The five-year Canadian study, "Childhood Sports Participation and Adolescent Sport" (published online Nov. 13), followed 756 children beginning when they were between 10 and 11 years old, asking three times each year about physical activity they participated in outside of gym class. During the first year, 19% of participants were sports specializers, 67% were sports samplers, and 14% were sports non-participants. Five years later, the "samplers" were more than 50% more likely to still participate in sports, and they were less likely to become sports non-participants than those who specialized.
The study also found that children who didn't participate in any sports typically remained non-participants as teens. Internationally, study authors said, just 9% of boys and 2% of girls between ages 5 and 17 get the recommended 1 hour physical activity per day that is essential to healthy development. Encouraging sports sampling during childhood, they said, may be a good way to help correct this.