Greg Olsen blasts youth sport specialization: 'We're moving down a bad path'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Saturday July 29, 2017




Originally published 3/2/16

One of the NFL’s best tight ends credits his youth development to playing multiple sports and says sport specialization is sending kids down a bad path.

Kids can play nearly any sport year-round now. In football, you have 7-on-7 leagues, camps and more during the typical offseason. Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen joined the NFL Network crew to talk about his Combine experience and brought up specialization. Olsen played basketball and track & field in high school, along with football.

“I think we’re moving down a bad spot,” he said. “My kids, they love football, but I’ve made it clear we’re going to play all sports. First of all, from a physical development, there’s a lot of research that suggests multiple sports help develop a kid. Even more than that, just from a social environment. Being around different types of people, being around different environments, having multiple coaches. Being around different things, that’s how you learn and grow up.

“You learn to be around people you may not agree with, be around a coach where you have to do what he says, even though you don't like it. I just think that’s so important. I don’t think you want to stick kids in one box for their whole life and they’ve never seen the big picture.”

Olsen also brought up the biggest point: The odds of your kid reaching the professional level are incredibly small.

“There’s plenty of time to play at this level. Most kids are never going to go,” he said. “Chances are my kids aren’t either. But that’s not what it’s about. Youth sports, growing up as a kid, it’s more than touchdowns. It’s more than free throws. It’s about growing up as a kid. I think kids are missing out on it.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.