Rita Wieber Wonders at What Age Children Should Specialize in a Sport: Jordyn ‘Had to Settle into Just Gymnastics’ Early

08/12/2016 at 09:45 AM ET

The women on the latest edition of PEOPLE’s Mom Talk discuss that when their kids were very young, they wanted to make sure they were well-rounded in the world of athletics.

But at some point, they realized that to be top in one sport, they would have to steer them in that direction. The trouble, though, was figuring out when that should happen.

“When my kids were little, it seemed like we’d let them get involved in a number of different sports,” says Rita Wieber, whose daughter Jordyn Wieber is a former Olympian who helped her team win gold at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

“And then Jordyn had to settle into just gymnastics at a certain point,” Rita continues of her daughter, who recently turned 21. “Because if you want to go to a higher level, you can’t really do a lot of different things.”

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Jordan Wieber Specializing Gymnastics Early
Courtesy Rita Wieber

Though the Wieber family obviously found a great balance in figuring out the right age for Jordyn to pursue strictly gymnastics, Rita admits it wasn’t easy figuring out what that timeframe should be.

“At what point do you decide, ‘They need to spend all of their time doing this particular sport because they have an incredible amount of talent?’ ” she asks.

#tbt bright orange leo and corn rows! #swag 😂

A photo posted by Jordyn Wieber (@jordyn_wieber) on

Baby Jo #soserious

A photo posted by Jordyn Wieber (@jordyn_wieber) on

“And is it different for each sport?” mother of four Lindsay Davenport adds in agreement.

“I only played tennis from [age] 6 on,” continues the former Olympian. “And so for most tennis players, that is kind of the routine. It is a specialized sport.”

Jen Juneau

FILED UNDER: Mom Talk

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Showing 4 comments

Ella on

Ask any Sports Medicine doctor- it is not healthy for any child to specialize in any sport until mid teens. Why do you think there are so many young athletes in physiotherapy, having surgery, etc.?

St on

That top picture is terrible. I can’t imagine that her mother did not have a different photo to publish.

lol on

Misty Copeland, phenomenal ballerina, started at age 13. Depends on how bad ‘they’ want it and how hard they’re willing to work for it. There is no age for anything. Desire is key. People like Misty .. ‘wanted’ it.

Nothing destroys a child’s dreams more than a pushy parent. ‘Allow’ your kids to try different things .. ‘allow’ your kids to ‘choose’ what they like most .. then just be supportive and do your best to assist them with chasing ‘their’ dreams. Some parents confuse their childs dreams with their own unfulfulled dreams. In that case, see a psychologist.

MimiB on

My athletic 10 year old grandson is playing several sports, as he’s done since he a tyke. He golfs, swims, plays soccer, basketball and baseball. He’s good at all of them. His mom and dad love sports [Dad is a professional golfer!] and feel their son may have a future as an athlete, but they won’t allow him to specialize at this age because they’re concerned about his physical well being. Overuse of limbs leading to injury and surgery is all too common, especially among young baseball pitchers.

They’ve spoken with sports physiologists and follow their expert advice, which is that for sports mad kids, the best thing is variety and limits on playing time in certain positions. They must be vigilant as some youth team coaches may try to override the designated limits, which unfortunately happens when winning has become too important to the coach.

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