Growing up playing sports organized or with my friends in the neighborhood was something I looked forward to doing. We played basketball, baseball, football, golf, and even made up sports like sidewalk baseball. I was very passionate about baseball and soccer throughout high school and eventually stopped playing soccer so I could focus on getting a scholarship for baseball. As I look back on my years of sport I remember games and some outcomes but the lasting impact for me was the people I met along the way.
Good coaches, bad coaches, good teammates, and bad ones all helped to develop me as a person and as an athlete. I would have missed out on opportunities to learn about myself through each of the different sports I played. I was better at some than others but loved to be part of a team or learn a new skill and it kept me wanting more. Each sport brings with it opportunities for a child to grow, develop, and learn about themselves.
I hope that with the continued focus on sports specialization especially at young ages that parents will take the time to learn about the pros and cons of only doing one sport year-round,
Participation in multiple sports can lead to better performance, according to research, and makes it more likely kids will become successful athletes in college and beyond.
According to one study of NCAA Division I athletes, 88 percent participated in an average of 2 – 3 sports as children and 70 percent didn’t specialize in a single sport until after age 12. Approximately 70 percent of NFL players were multi-sport athletes as kids.
Exposing kids to multiple sports:
- Gives kids a chance to discover what they like about different sports
- Lets kids enjoy playing for the sake of the game, rather than focusing only on winning
- Reduces the chance of injury resulting from overuse or overtraining
- Allows kids to develop skills that transfer from one sport to another
- Provides valuable learning opportunities as kids adapt to different coaches, training styles and teammates
Encouraging your kids to play multiple sports will help prepare them for life. They’ll have more fun and become better overall athletes
The Risks of Specializing in One Sport
One issue with today’s young athletes, however, is the focus on specialization in a single sport. Often this happens from a very young age and maybe spurred by parents’ competitiveness or belief that training intently for one sport will help their child “get ahead” or become an elite athlete. But specializing in a sport, especially from an early age, may do more harm than good.
Playing only one sport year-round may:
- Increase the risk of overuse injuries
- Decrease overall athletic development
- Lead to social isolation
- Cause burnout that results in the child giving up the sport
“Playing just one sport year-round can lead to overuse injuries,” says orthopedic surgeon Mark Miller, MD. “In baseball, that may mean little leaguer’s shoulder, elbow injuries, and other problems. In long-distance running, that may mean stress fractures. Switching sports may allow recovery and use of different body parts and muscles that may reduce these overuse injuries.”
Overuse injuries can permanently damage children’s joints and inhibit their growth.
Encouraging your kids to play multiple sports will help prepare them for life. They will have more fun and become better overall athletes.
Information provided by University of Virginia Health Systems
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Submitted by Coach Eric Amato, President & CEO