Most sports start at a very young age, which is good.
It doesn´t matter what kind of sports athletes are getting started with; I just think it is very good to do sports at a very young age. And I am sure you are thinking the same since you are reading this blog. This doesn´t mean that every six-year-old needs to be a future professional athlete. Sports at a young age offers way more than a potential Olympic career.
Starting with any sport as soon as a child is interested is great. Just moving a young body and experiencing what it all can do is the best foundation for any sport, and it is not just good for sports but also for a healthy life.
It might not matter what kind of sport this is at a very young age. Like always, there are some exceptions. Figure skating, gymnastics, or ballet are sports that might be hard to get into later in life when aiming for a professional career in this sport. But even there, I see some crossovers and that a gymnast could become a ballet dancer. Still, most times, it is not necessary to pick the sport at the age of 4 to specialize and stick with it.
Many sports can build upon each other. Shaun White was at first an outstanding rollerblader and later became an incredible snowboarder - with Olympic history.
I had a teammate who is a world champion and Olympic medal winner in Biathlon, who did not have any ski training sessions until the age of 15. But before that, she was an uphill runner, which seemed to be a great foundation for Biathlon.
I started both xc-ski training and gymnastics at the age of six. This is kind of late for gymnastics, but I didn't know that, and I didn´t care. I had fun, and it definitely helped me to set up body awareness. Two years later, I just didn´t want to miss out on xc-ski training anymore, which was on Tuesdays at the same time, and stopped joining gymnastics. It was not too hard for me to choose not to miss xc-ski sessions anymore because we did gymnastics as part of our xc-ski training.
Even by getting more serious about xc-skiing, we still didn´t specialize like crazy. I do thank my coaches I had back at this time a lot for implementing all sorts of sports and activities. It kept training fun and diverse and set up a great foundation to be able to have a career as long as I wanted it to be.
Let´s get back to the topic of this blog post and the question of when to get serious and pick one sport. A short answer would be: It depends. It depends on what the chosen sport requires and if another sport would supplement the main pick.
Whatever sport a young athlete is interested in, I would definitely stay serious about general diversity. Learning all kinds of skills and keep doing this throughout a professional and Olympic career. We even had a canoe competition as part of our team qualification criteria to make sure we train divers.
I don´t know any sport, I wish I would not have done or tried, but I wish I would have taken some alpine skiing sessions after racing season. This would have helped my downhill skills on xc-skis.
Specialize whenever necessary, but stay serious about a broad foundation.
The only thing I would get serious about already at a young age, let´s say around 10, is going consistently to practice. It´s kind of an educational lesson. Going to training consistently only makes athletes better; no one will get worse. So in whatever we do consistently, we get better, including math, writing, playing an instrument, and everything else. Not everyone will master everything, but I don´t think it is possible to go backward with these tactics.
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