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Why Our Youth Athletes Should Play Multiple Sports

Nov 17, 2022

In this day and age the pressures to win, scholarship aspirations, competitive spirit, and fear of falling behind dominate youth sports. As a result kids are being pushed to specialize in a single sport earlier and earlier. Many coaches and parents have turned their focus on helping kids become experts in the sport they excel at most. While coaches and parents are well intended in trying to help their kids succeed, early sports specialization may not be the right path to success for many. Let’s talk about some reasons why early specialization may be detrimental to youth athletes physically & mentally! 

 

  • To Specialize or to Not Specialize?

    • Studies show that playing multiple sports leads to better muscle, motor and skill development in the youth athlete
    • Different movements are required for each sport. These different movement demands promote increased athleticism, better balance, increased speed, improved proprioception (awareness of your body in space) and increased quickness/agility
    • Studies also show fewer overuse injuries with multiple sport athletes. By varying the sport our youth are exposed to, their repetitive load to the same movements/activities are reduced 
      1.  Growing bodies just like adult bodies can become overstressed with repetitive movements leading to increased chance of injury
      2.  Example: A young baseball pitcher pitching year round without any other sport play has an increased chance of injury compared to a pitcher who plays basketball and soccer since the number of pitches is naturally decreased in the multi-sport youth athlete.

  

  • Specialization and Burnout 

    • Kids and families who focus on one sport early can easily feel emotionally and physically burnt out towards the sport and life in general
    • Specialization often leads to greater expectations, costs for travel, and pressure to make advanced teams such as club & traveling teams
    • Having a variety of sports experiences leads to reduced likelihood of feeling burnout and often reduces pressure to perform at such a high level solely in one sport

 

 

  • Exposure to different roles can significantly benefit a youth athlete 

    • Playing different roles on a team can provide different experiences to athletes which can allow them to grow socially, physically, and emotionally.

      1. Socially - ability to improve communication and teamwork skills in a variety of roles with their teammates and opponents depending the sport
      2. Physically - variety of sport exposure often allows the athlete to become more well rounded in multiple types of movements, strength, and flexibility often leading to a more well-rounded athlete.
      3. Emotionally - varied individual and team exposure to different wins, losses, and emotional experiences that occur differently in each sport. This can help an athlete develop a greater adaptability and mental fortitude required for different sports

 

 

  • Exposure to different coaches, teammates and competition 

    • Exposed to different playing styles 
    • Exposed to different teaching/coaching styles 
    • Experience successes and failures  

 

Let’s take a look at some of the stats of the recent professionals: 

  • 30 out of the 32 first round picks in the 2017 NFL draft were multi-sport athletes in high school.
  • In all, 222 of the 253 players selected in the 2017 NFL draft played more than one sport in high school.
  • In a study completed on NCAA Division 1 Athletes, it was found that 88% of athletes participated in an average of 2 to 3 sports as children
  • Tracking Football’s research shows that over 80% of current Division 1 football scholarship recruits played another sport in high school.

 

The Bottom Line

Don’t let the pressure and fear of falling behind in a particular sport be the only decision making factor behind sports specialization especially at a young age. Enabling our youth athletes and kids to have a more varied experience in the sports realm can lead to overall improved motor skills/strength/mobility, decreased injury prevalence, higher sports IQ, and help reduce burn out towards sports. Let's keep our youth athletes and kids having fun in sports while enabling them to develop as well rounded human beings!

 

Thanks for reading!! 

 

-Dr. Dan


 Feel Better. Move Better. Score Better 

 

 

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