Doctor Brooks, thank you for the introduction and the invitation to share some of the research we have conducted on youth athlete talent development. I recently authored a research brief on this topic for Aspen's Project Play Initiative. Many of the citations that are presented in this article are also in that research brief. And I would encourage students with great interest in this topic to read the brief, which is available on the resources page of this course. Specifically, the purpose of my presentations in this module are to identify and review the most relevant and important literature on the topic of developing children as athletes. I have framed this literature on three specific questions regarding early specialization in the role of practice and play in the development of skill acquisition and expertise in sports. The first question I will address in this module is, what are the benefits and drawbacks of early specialization? Second question I will address is, what are the benefits of early sampling? And finally, I will discuss the role of deliberate play in the acquisition of sport skills. So what are the benefits and drawbacks of early specialization? A definition of sampling was introduced into the literature by Côté and his colleagues, as it relates to their developmental model of sport participation. The sampling phase is the first phase in this talent development model. The sampling phase is defines giving children between the ages of 6 and 12 years old the opportunity to sample various sports and high levels of play activities. This concept is often referred to as early sampling, or early diversification, in the research literature. So what is early specialization? Early specialization could be categorized as the inverse of early sampling in reference to the number of sports an athlete participates in and the amount of play involved. An early specialization pathway demands that children choose only one sport. Further, sport participation utilizing this pathway is characterize by high levels of deliberate and focus, practice rather than play, and often focuses on performance at early ages, even as young as five or six years old. The research literature provides some support for the early specialization pathway. The strongest support is found in sports in which peak performance occurs in adolescence or early adulthood. Specifically early specialization in the sports of women's gymnastics and women's figure skating have demonstrated the value of this pathway as an ideal way to develop talent for early performance. It is also safe to suggest that early specialization is likely the best path to athletes looking to achieve early age group success. Thus,if a young athlete, or player's only goal is to improve their current performance, early specialization in that sport will provide a young athlete, and their coach, and their parents, the best chance of success in their age-group. Therefore, if a coach wants to win a U12 soccer national championship, encouraging his or her players to limit or exclude participation in all other sports to focus on developing soccer-specific skills and tactics may be the most effective way to reach that goal. Another potential benefit of early specialization pathway involves the environmental and psychological domains of development. Scholars have shown the significant incidents during development can have an important effect on an athlete's attitudes and perceived competence. These events can be very specific, such as major wins, or making a particular select or all-star type team. They can also be more chronic, and include such experiences as poor coaching, or excessive parental pressure, on the negative side. And, on the positive side, selection onto youth national teams year after year. For example, one recent study by Horton, in 2012, advanced that an early, critical incident, such as making a specific team leads to an increase in self-esteem and intrinsic motivation as the athlete continues in that sport. Given the current youth sport landscape, cut off from rewards, early success, and performance with selections to elite teams or identifications to state, regional, or national pools that may have access to better coaching, and access to better competition. One could argue that early specialization could be beneficial in achieving these short term identification successes. However, while these experiences can be beneficial, very beneficial to the motivation of a young athlete. It is also important to remember that this type of talent identification can exclude the late boomer in a sport, and the underserved athletes, and that neither of these types of athletes are playing in the correct leagues or tournaments to get identified and selected. In essence, the failure to achieve a critical incident can create what I have termed a lost opportunities effect in children. And these children may actually fall behind their peers in terms of their confidence, and even potentially their actual skill acquisition in their sport. So beyond these benefits in specific context I have outlined, the majority of the literature suggests that early specialization can actually have significant negative consequences on the development of an athlete, especially when considering development over time. For example, studies have shown an early specialization pathway can lead to an increase in burnout and dropout, less enjoyment from playing, higher rates of injury, social isolation, staleness in relation to skill acquisition, and physiological imbalances in the body. Research has also found a relationship between early specialization and the length of an athletes career. A decrease in the range of motor skills gained through sport participation has also been noted early specializers. One recent study has even correlated a decrease in participation in sports activities in adulthood in those that reported specializing in one sport as a youth athlete. A series of recent studies by Jayanthi and his colleagues has provided the most compelling evidence of the relationship between specialization and athletic related injuries. For example, in 1 study of 124 tennis players, these researchers found that athletes that suffered sport related injuries, spent an average of 12.6 hours per week in organized tennis, and only 2.4 hours per week in free play or recreation. However, the uninjured athletes in their sample spent only 9.7 hours per week in organized tennis and 4.3 hours per week in unstructured free play. So in summary, the research supports a few specific benefits and domains in which an early specialization pathway is advantageous. However, it is also clear that the early specialization pathway fails to consider many of the physical, psychological, and social costs to young participants, especially when considering the development of a young athlete through adolescence and even across the lifespan.