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Tip 5 - Sport sampling

The importance of sport sampling before specialising

Research shows a high proportion of elite Australian athletes took part in a diverse variety of sports before specialising around 13–15 years old. The variety of sports provides a fuller, more competent and adaptable skill base for the athlete to draw on at an elite level.

A diversified investment in sports before specialisation has also been linked to minimising injury and reducing later dropout and burnout from sport.

Recent findings from the My Sporting Journey project found that most Australian athletes who had made the podium at senior international events participated in an average of four different sports — often to a high level — before specialising in their main sport. Of these athletes, 80 per cent reported that training and competition in these prior sports greatly assisted their performance in their main sport.

Classic examples of sport sampling include:

Dual international in cricket and soccer, Ellyse Perry, also played touch football, athletics, tennis and golf.

Multiple Paralympic wheelchair racer Richard Nicholson also competed in gymnastics, archery, swimming, powerlifting and skateboarding on his hands before committing to road and track racing.

Pin icon TIP: Sample, sample, sample and have fun!

Except for early specialising-sports such as gymnastics, resist the temptation for your child to specialise in one sport too early.

Sampling a large range of sports during childhood and continuing to play several sports, at least until the age of 15, is likely to:

  • maximise the development of a full range of sporting skills
  • promote adaptability of skills and all-body coordination and control
  • enhance the possibility of later senior sporting success
  • minimise the likelihood of overuse injuries.

You can:

  • encourage your child to try out a few sports, organised and unorganised
  • allow them to work out which sports they are good at and which ones they like the most
  • allow them to decide which sport they want specialise in.

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Did you know?

Gold Coast 2018 is the 5th Commonwealth Games to be hosted by Australia.

Quick numbers

11.6 million Australian adults participate in sport or physical activity three or more times per week.
3.2 million Australian children participate in organised sport or physical activity outside of school.
$10 billion is spent annually by Australians on fees for participation in sport or physical activity.
17 million Australian adults participate in a sport or physical activity every year.
650 thousand Australians either coach, teach or instruct sport.