Key Factor 2: Early Specialization and Late Specialization

Key Factor #2: Early Specialization and Late Specialization

  • Sports are classified as either early or late specialization. Early specialization sports require highly complex skills that cannot be fully mastered if they are taught after maturation. Gymnastics, figure skating, and diving are examples of early specialization sports. Most sports, and almost all Special Olympics sports, are late specialization sports.
  • Individuals with an intellectual disability seem to enter physical activity and sport later than the general population.
    • Participants may be involved in generic sport programs until a certain age and register in Special Olympics Programs when they can no longer keep up with their peers.
    • Many Special Olympics programs do not start until after the age of 8.
  • Athletes who enter a sport early should follow a program based on the LTAD plan developed by the NSO, but modified to reflect their particular needs, making sure that all basic sport skills are developed to ensure physical literacy.
  • Recommendation: Participants need to be introduced to sport at an early age to build physical literacy and develop the sport skills they need to participate in early or late specialization sports, allowing the individual to enjoy active for life sport or to pursue competitive sport based on interest and aptitude.