Is there ever a time when specialization makes sense? As parents, we might have children who enjoy playing a sport so much that it’s what they want to do all the time. All their best friends play, the exercise is fabulous, and the fun appears to be there consistently. There may be cases, albeit few, where some children may benefit from playing the sport they love as much as possible, but it is our job as parents to keep a lookout for important variables.

Ask The Important Questions

If we choose the sport specialization path, here are a few questions we should ask ourselves: Are our kids getting enough sleep? Are they training more than 16-20 hours a week? Are they taking 2-3 months off from the sport each year? Are they taking at least 1-2 days off from their sport each week? Are they reporting pains in their joints at young ages? Do they have good friends? Are they keeping up with their schoolwork? Are they developing other aspects of their identity? Do these choices work with our family values and schedules?

An Evolving Decision

These are critical questions that need to be reviewed each season. We, as parents, are seeking out the advice of other parents, coaches and administrators who have no financial investment or agenda in our kids’ future because we may struggle with evaluating our children’s abilities objectively. The case can be made for specialization for certain kids, but ongoing review of this choice as your kids grow and develop is a necessity.


This article was adapted by Dr. Ginsburg’s original posting on the US Lacrosse website.

Dr. Richard Ginsburg
Dr. Richard D. Ginsburg is a clinical psychologist and sport psychology consultant. He is co-director of the Massachusetts General Hospital PACES Institute of Sport Psychology and is an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ginsburg also serves as staff psychologist in the Newton Wellesley Hospital Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Department and is the director of Behavioral Health for the Boston Red Sox. Dr. Ginsburg offers a broad range of clinical services to children, adolescents and adults and conducts youth and professional sport research. He is author of the book, Whose Game Is It, Anyway, A guide to helping your child get the most from sports, organized by age and stage and has served as a sport psychology consultant for a variety of professional and college-level sports teams, including lacrosse, soccer, water polo and ice hockey at Harvard University. He is a member of the US Lacrosse Safety and Science Committee and provides talks and consultations nationally to youth, high school, and collegiate athletic programs. Dr. Ginsburg played lacrosse and soccer at Kenyon College, where he won all-conference and all-Midwest honors. He is also a former independent school teacher and coach. He lives with his wife, Teri, and their two children in Newton, Massachusetts.