Sunday, January 31, 2010

Youth Specialization

Think back to what you were doing when you were 15 years old. My guess is that you were somewhere in the midst of high school, waiting one more year to get a driver's license, and probably not even thinking about college much less your future career. What if your career was already in progress? How would that change your life? For 15-year-old Maddy Schaffrick, the career of her dreams has been underway for the past eight years. This year she is the youngest competitor in the X Games, but the story gets even crazier in the fact that these are her second X Games. Even though she failed to qualify for the SuperPipe finals, the fact that she is competing at this level with only eight years of experience is amazing. When I first found this story on the Aspen Daily News website, I was amazed by the dedication this girl must have for her sport. Most people, myself included, had no concrete idea what they wanted to do for a career when they are 15. However, is this wrong? I can imagine many people arguing that when children are so involved in just one activity, their development suffers. This argument has been developed as a means to oppose AAU teams because the extreme specialization leads to more cutthroat competition. However, in this snowboarding sample as well as with AAU teams, I feel that specialization, if it is chosen by the child, can be extremely beneficial. What I mean by this is that the parent should not force the child to specialize in just one activity to make them a "superstar." If the child truly wants to commit a large portion of his or her time to one activity, then he or she should be able to. In this case, Maddy's interest is also a career. If she truly enjoys snowboarding, I think it is awesome that she is so involved in it. Any opportunity you get to use the talents that you have is great; engaging in a variety of activities is also fine, but why force children to stop doing what they enjoy most just to say they did? Specialization is not necessarily a bad thing for a child; if people have found their passion, any efforts to have them try something else will be in vain. The child will simply gravitate back towards what he or she loves to do.

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