Saturday 21 April 2018

Not 'specialising' key to becoming a top athlete

David Epstein Author of
David Epstein Author of "The Sports Gene". Pic Frank Mc Grath.

Sam Griffin & Chris McNabb

THE secret to becoming an elite athlete in one sport is to play them all as a child, according to a leading sports scientist.

David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene, which examines the science behind extraordinary sporting ability, said children who specialise in one sport too young often fall behind others who have 'sampled' other sports beforehand.

"By forcing children to specialise, we have completely backfired. So now it's the kids in the area where we are leaving them alone to let them sample who are going to the pros (professional ranks). This trend wasn't always this way, now it's occurring in every single US sport," he said.

He also warned that Ireland places too much emphasis on the physique of children who develop early at the expense of slower developers who are actually more skilled and said coaches here "mistake biological maturation for talent".

Mr Epstein also took part in a discussion which included rugby star Rob Kearney and Olympic sailor Annalise Murphy.

He was speaking at the inaugural Denis O'Brien lecture series which will run yearly at the O'Brien Hall in UCD. Also in attendance were Ronnie Delaney, Micheal O Muircheartaigh, Brian Mullins, Brent Pope and Bernard Brogan and other sport stars, coaches and academics.

Read the David Epstein interview with Vincent Hogan in tomorrow's 'Irish Independent'

Irish Independent

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