Many believe football is a sport in which early specialisation is important, but is it actually early specialisation or early engagement that players really need? There is little doubt playing with a ball from an early age is beneficial, but should organised football be a child’s only sporting experience?

The following image first came to my attention through Twitter, from Ohio University. It is amazing because the image portrays something that is widely known among experts, is widely discussed in coaching circles, and has certainly been written about many times. Yet this simple image still touched a nerve.

The image referred to by the author. By Urban Meyer, College Football Coach, Ohio State University.

The image referred to by the author. By Urban Meyer, College Football Coach, Ohio State University.

My response to seeing it was “Amen, agreed, hopefully now people will start paying attention.”

If it takes an infographic of Urban Meyer’s football recruits at Ohio State to shift the paradigm in youth sports, then so be it. The image, which clearly demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of his recruits are multi-sport kids, is not new information, but it has caused quite a stir. We can summarise its general message like this:

To be an elite-level player at a college or in professional sport, you need a degree of exceptional athleticism. And the best medically, scientifically and psychologically recommended way to develop such all-around athleticism is ample free play and multiple sport participation as a child.

But why is this the case? Well let’s see what the experts say.

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John O'Sullivan
John O'Sullivan
John O'Sullivan is the founder of Changing the Game Project after two decades as a player and coach at youth, high school and professional level. John has written a #1 best selling book titled, 'Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to our Kids'. He holds the USSF A license, NSCAA Advanced National Diploma and US Youth Soccer National Youth Coaching License. John has also been a speaker at TEDx.
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