Attitudes, and Beliefs of Youth Sports Coaches Regarding Sport Volume
Recommendations and Sport Specialization
Post EG, Trigsted SM, Schaefer DA,
Cadmus-Bertram LA, Watson AM, McGuine TA, Brooks MA, Bell DR. J Strength Cond
Res. 2018 Feb 22. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002529. [Epub ahead of print]
Take Home Message:
Coaches may be unaware of current recommendations about training volume and
sports specialization but express concerns about sport specialization.
Sports specialization is increasingly
common despite a lack of evidence that it leads to success and is linked to
increased injury risk, particularly overuse injury. Several professional
organizations including the National Athletic Trainers’ Association and American Medical Society for Sports Medicine have released position statements to caution against early
sports specialization. While coaches profoundly impact an athlete’s decision to
specialize and train, we know little about their knowledge and beliefs
regarding sport specialization and training volume. Hence, the authors sought
to determine the knowledge of youth sport coaches regarding sport volumes and
to assess the attitudes or thoughts regarding youth sport specialization. The authors
invited school and club youth sport coaches via email to complete a web-based
questionnaire. Eligible coaches worked as a head or assistant coach with
athletes 12 to 18 years of age in the previous 12 months. The survey instrument
was not previously validated but was created using sound theory, vetted, and
tested prior to the study. Overall, 253 coaches (207 males) completed the
survey. The majority (69%) of coaches coached school-based teams. Most (80%)
respondents were unaware of recommendations regarding the number of hours per
week or months per year of participation and only 11% reported that they were
aware of both recommendations. The coaches agreed that participation in
multiple leagues in the same sport at the same time was inappropriate but 58%
did not see a problem with participation in simultaneous leagues of different
sports. Less than half of the coaches were either very or extremely concerned
about the risk of injury in youth sports. Two out of three coaches indicated
that year-round sports participation was very or extremely likely to increase
risk of injury. Almost all (94%) coaches agreed that participation in multiple
sports increases athletic ability quite a bit or a great deal.
This study is the first to examine the
knowledge and beliefs of youth sports coaches on sports specialization and
provides a great deal of information that can be used to develop educational
programs and initiatives in youth sports. The figure that draws the most
attention is the fact that 80% of youth coaches are unaware of recommendations
regarding the number of months per year or hours per week that athletes should
be participating. While it may be difficult for coaches to track specific hours
that athletes participate in organized sport on other teams, they should at
least be aware of the recommendation: athletes should not participate more hours
per week than their age. (i.e. a 12-year old should not participate more than
12 hours per week).  Even though coaches
in this survey were largely unaware of the recommendations, they agreed that
sports specialization is a problem, expressed concerned about the risk of
injury, and the increased risk associated with year-round participation. The
results of this study identify a need for improved youth sport education
programs. Models such as concussion education may be used to improve the
knowledge and awareness of youth sport coaches. Youth sport coaches are often
serving in volunteer capacities and while it is important for them to have basic
knowledge in many areas (concussion, sudden cardiac arrest, sport specific
guidelines, etc.), it would be beneficial for them if we had a uniform way to
deliver educational directives to them to help alleviate the burden placed on
Questions and Discussion:
How do we best ensure that appropriate guidelines are being distributed to
youth sport coaches? Should there be different educational focus for school
based and club-based coaches regarding sports specialization and participation
Written by: Adam Lake
Reviewed by: Jeffrey Driban
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