The young athletes factory

Posted on August 24th 2022


What’s the recipe for creating the next Sydney Crosby? For growing the next Serena Williams? Some water, sun and good soil? Probably not… To achieve success, should the next generation of super athletes simply focus on exhaustive practice of their one sport to the detriment of all else? The Québec model’s sport-study (sports-études) concept in our schools is so popular that you might think so. But what does the scientific literature say?

For all the adolescents enrolled in a sport-study program and only practicing their one sport, sometimes 5 or 6 days a week, the literature promotes the opposite. In fact, intense practice of a single sport at a young age, to the detriment of all the others (also called sports specialization), is linked to very high-volume training, repetitive movements and particularly a poor variety of movements. Given the fragility of certain parts of the pediatric skeleton, this combination increases the risk of injury for young athletes. It has even been shown that early specialization diminishes a young athlete’s potential and reduces his or her chances of continuing to practice the sport over the long term!

Maintaining a rich and varied practice routine is still the best way to develop athletic skills, promote a healthy lifestyle, maximize a young athlete’s potential and, above all, allow the discovery of the sport for which he or she might have the talent¬ – and the capability of bringing back Olympic gold!

Dr. Jérôme Ouellet, MD FRCPC DipSportMed
Pediatrician specializing in pediatric sports medicine