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When is “too late?”

During the Olympics, I heard more and more about athletes who devoted their life to their sport from a pre-pubescent age (gymnasts). These are the most prominent athletes in prime time.

Of course, other athletes offer the counterpoint, but somehow we ignore these examples. U.S. beach volleyball star and gold medalist Phil Dalhausser started as a tennis player and did not take up volleyball until late in high school or after graduation. Likewise, Sean Rosenthal never played high school volleyball and picked up the sport in his teens before turning pro at age 17. Kerrie Walsh played high school basketball in addition to volleyball.

In September’s Men’s Health, the cover feature is David Beckham. The article starts:

“You’ll never play for England because you’re too small and not strong enough.”

A soccer teacher said this at age 13. Beckham now has 100 caps with the English National Team and is probably the richest footballer in the world.

So, do players need to be rated in the 4th grade? Do they need to specialize in one sport by junior high school?

Sure, some athletes do specialize and succeed and some athletes are rated very early in life and maintain their status. However, these examples do not necessitate that everyone follow in their footsteps, as plenty of players develop later in life without national rankings and plenty of players specialize in high school or college.

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