However, sports such as hockey, soccer, basketball, baseball, and tennis are late specialization sports. If you want your child to have a chance to go to the Olympics or the World Cup in these sports, the evidence suggests they should also play other sports until at least age 14. This is called “sampling” or “early diversification”.
So when should your child specialize in one sport? First of all, you should ask them if they even want to specialize. Maybe they don’t want to, and that’s okay. Not everyone dreams of going to the Olympics or playing in the NHL.
However, if we imagine that your child shares your enthusiasm in a late-specialization sport such as hockey, soccer, squash, volleyball, baseball, tennis, or basketball, there seems to be a general age range where specialization becomes important. It depends on the sport, your child’s level of maturation, and—if we are talking about a team sport—their playing position. The general rule would be sometime around the middle of high school, or ages 14-16 years.
When you feel the urge to make your child specialize early, remember that Steve Nash didn’t even start playing basketball until he was 13-years-old. Wayne Gretzky started hockey young, but he also played baseball, lacrosse, and tennis into his teens.