Latest from the Head Master’s Desk : 13 May 2016

This is an article I wrote almost three years ago and would like it to be circulated again:
From time to time I get asked whether children involved in sport at a competitive level, should specialize in one sport and if the decision is to specialize, at what age they should start specializing?
I do not have all the answers, but I have been involved in education all my life and played, coached, managed and administered sport from beginner level to national level and can only share with you my experiences.  As a parent, I also have daughters who compete at a national level.  I also had to make that decision with them.
It is not an easy question to answer, but I will always give parents the following advice.  At what level does your child want to compete?  I know the answer is almost always at the highest level.  They all want to become Olympians or represent South Africa at the very least.  The reality is that very few will make it.  If you want to represent your country or become an Olympian you will have to put in hours every day.  16 hours was mentioned by a famous coach to be the bare minimum that you have to put in every week.  That is roughly 2.5 hours every day of the week.  That does not leave you too much time to do any other sports at a provincial or national level.  Swimmers normally put in 2 hours in the mornings and 2 hours in the evenings almost every day of the year.
If your son is not prepared to only do the one sport, they will not be able to put in the amount of time for each sport to do well at a national level in all of them.  At junior school level they might still be in the top 5 in the country for two or more sports, but when they get older it becomes tougher.  They cannot expect to be one of the best by putting less time in than the other top performers.  The competition often specialises and can practice longer and harder.  Remember the saying by Kevin Durant:  “Hard work always beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard” They should then not be disappointed when they come second, because it will happen.  However, if your child’s goal is to end in the top 10 nationally in two or more sports, and he or she is content with that, then there is no reason not to aim to do more than one sport at a national level.  You will struggle to be the best in all of them though.
Your son can still concentrate on one sport and do others at a less competitive or social level and I would recommend that.  The age at which your child makes that decision is also a difficult one.  My advice is to try as many sports as possible and if he or she shows talent in one or two of them and has real potential, then I would recommend you discuss it with your child.  If the decision is to specialise, then I would recommend it happens by the age of 14/15.
Leon Erasmus
14th Head Master

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