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Debunking early single sport specialisation and reshaping the youth sport experience: an NBA perspective
  1. John P DiFiori1,2,
  2. Joel S Brenner3,
  3. Dawn Comstock4,
  4. Jean Côté5,
  5. Arne Güllich6,
  6. Brian Hainline7,
  7. Robert Malina8
  1. 1National Basketball Association, New York, New York, USA
  2. 2Division of Sports Medicine and Non-Operative Orthopaedics, University of California, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, California, USA
  3. 3Department of Pediatrics, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Virginia, USA
  4. 4Department of Epidemiology, Colorado School of Public Health, Aurora, Colorado, USA
  5. 5Queens University, School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
  6. 6Department of Sports Science, University of Kaiserslautern, Kaiserslautern, Germany
  7. 7NCAA, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
  8. 8Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Texas, Austin, Texas, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr John P DiFiori, UCLA Division of Sports Medicine and Non-Operative Orthopaedics, 1920 Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90404, USA; jdifiori{at}nba.com

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The ‘common wisdom’

Among many parents and coaches, it is believed that early single sport specialisation is essential for future competitive sport success and, further, that a high level of achievement in youth sports predicts future success. Owing to these misconceptions, youth sport has become focused on results at young ages rather than the overall development process, including physical and psychosocial health and well-being.

The emphasis on competitive success in youth sports has been driven by a variety of factors including efforts to make elite travel or club teams, attend exclusive camps or showcase events, secure high school roster spots, garner collegiate scholarships and achieve professional careers. In addition, in the USA, the college recruiting process itself is a significant issue, with those as young as the eighth grade committing to a college programme.1 All of this has led to pressure to begin high-intensity training and single sport specialisation in childhood. As a consequence, many parents and young athletes are concerned that not specialising early will place them at a disadvantage in achieving their sport-related goals. In the sport of basketball, a recent National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) survey found that ∼49% of men and 55% of women at the Division 1 level …

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