Thursday, March 26, 2015

Should Young Athletes Just Focus On One Sport?

A popular trend in youth sports these days appears to be the specialization of single-sport athletes.  A lot of young athletes feel that they can maximize their performance potential by just focusing on one sport and playing it all year long via travel teams, select teams, camps etc.

An article has been circulating around social media lately in which a figure represents the total number of recruits selected by Ohio State University's Head Football Coach, Urban Meyer. (which needless to say seems to know a thing or two about recruiting...particularly stud quarterbacks). In the figure it is very clear an overwhelming majority of the recruits were multi-sport athletes in high school.  A lot of other coaches in athletics tend to report similar trends within their own recruiting stating that multi-sport athletes seem to be better "all around" athletes and understand the concept of working together as a team better.

A lot of the times over-specializing in a certain sport may lead to overuse injuries, fatigue or mental burnout.  Different sports impose different training stimuli upon an athlete and therefore elicit multiple training adaptations which may improve overall athletic performance in addition to reducing the risk of injury. Below is an excerpt from the aforementioned article:

“The first questions I’ll ask about a kid are, “What other sports does he play? What does he do? What are his positions? Is he a big hitter in baseball? Is he a pitcher? Does he play hoops?” All of those things are important to me. I hate that kids don’t play three sports in high school. I think that they should play year-round and get every bit of it that they can through that experience. I really, really don’t favor kids having to specialize in one sport. Even here, I want to be the biggest proponent for two-sport athletes on the college level. I want guys that are so special athletically, and so competitive, that they can compete in more than one sport.” - Pete Carroll, USC football coach at the time of the quote, now head coach for the Seattle Seahawks

These opinions from coaches need to be disseminated to young athletes and their parents to help steer youth away from single sport careers and focus more so on the development of the overall athlete.  As a fellow multi-sport young athlete I remember being disappointed when some of our best baseball players had to miss half our games because they were away at hockey games or playing juniors in Canada during a portion of the summer.  It was frustrating as it severely depleted our talented athlete pool.  Moral of the story, encourage today's youth to play as many sports as they possibly can!

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