It seems like there has been a rise in sport specialization, even among younger athletes, in recent years. The argument for specialization is that it allows players to excel at one particular sport as opposed to just being “good” at a few. Many sports parents that dream of athletic scholarships often feel like sports specialization is the best way to improve their child’s chances of getting that scholarship, but not everyone agrees. There is still a lot of be said for being a multi-sport athlete. Here are a few of the benefits to playing a different sport each season.
1. Prevent burnout and overuse injuries.
One of the biggest arguments against sports specialization, especially in younger athletes, is that is increases their risk for overuse injuries and causes burnout much sooner in their athletic career. Think about how much stress a baseball pitcher’s arm and shoulder is under during a 3-4 month season…now multiply that by year round practice, travel tournaments, one-on-one coaching sessions and so forth. By doing one sport each season as opposed to one sport all year round youth athletes are giving different parts of their bodies the time needed to rest and recover.
Playing multiple sports also means that one particular sport never gets old or tedious. If every 4 months there is something new to look forward to, new challenges to take on and skills to learn it’s a lot harder to burnout on any one particular sport. The last thing we want is for a kid to stop playing sports because they’re sick and tired of it! Youth sports should be, above all else, fun for the players and something they are excited about doing. Playing a different sport each season keeps them on their toes and gives them something different to do.
2. Learning different skills makes a better all-around athlete.
So maybe your son won’t get much better at pitching if he plays basketball, but the quickness and agility needed on the basketball court might make him a better base runner come spring. And maybe the lung power your daughter builds up while on her swim team will help her endurance when she starts cross country in the fall. Being a multi-sport athlete gives youth athletes the opportunity to become better athletes all around. The skills learned in one sport might not directly apply to another, but being faster and stronger, having better endurance, speed and agility is going to help no matter what sport you’re involved in. Since different sports foster different strengths being a multi-sport athletes can help your child approve across the board.
3. Get exposed to different coaching styles and team dynamics. .
One of the best things about belonging to a youth sports organization is that it gives your child the opportunity to socialize and make new friends. A new team each season means they’ll be meeting even more new people they might not have met otherwise. This means they have to learn how to interact with teammates they may not know all that well and work to become a solid team. A new sport each season also means your athlete will be working with different coaches, each with their own unique coaching style. Your athlete might respond better to one coach‘s style than the other but it’s good to be exposed to a variety of coaching styles and personalities. Chances are your athlete isn’t going to have the same coach for their entire athletic career, right?
Which do you think? Is it better for a youth athlete to specialize in a particular sport or become a multi-sport athlete?