Please let your kids play multiple sports for as long as they want to play
As a high school baseball coach I want my players to play multiple sports. There are many reasons for this the most important being that it’s a lot of fun. There are other motivations as well.
The multi-sport athlete spends his or her off-season competing which to me me is way more valuable than having them do a few extra drills. Learning how to win and in some cases learning how to lose will teach them life lessons they can rely on throughout their lives.
Playing multiple sports keeps the player fresh. I personally can’t imagine practicing, conditioning or simply thinking about playing just one game twelve months of the year. At the risk of sounding like a geezer, my favorite sport was always the one that was in season.
In my experience I have seen the one sport player often come to the opening day of practice full of energy and enthusiasm, but slowly backslide as the season goes along as they inevitably feel burn-out. It doesn’t happen all of the time, and I usually see it in the younger kids. Baseball is a long enough season as it is. We start in late February and the school season lasts through May. We then head right into a summer season that ends in July or early August. The kid should have a chance to do other things, play on different teams, and play for different coaches. I know that I use things that I learned from all of my coaches whether they were baseball coaches or not.
Another thing I shave seen is unrealistic expectations. Primarily it comes from parents, but it is certainly filtered down to the athlete. It goes like this:
“I practice all year long for baseball. Why is that guy who only plays during the baseball season ahead of me?” Or, “I go to all these camps and do great. Why am I not starting?” “Why am I not getting attention from colleges?” And from the parent, the unspoken words are, “I have spent so much money on this, why isn’t my kid doing better?”
There are simple answers to those questions. The multi-sport kid just might be a better athlete. Look at the college and pro rosters and see how many of them played more than just their chosen sport during high school. To be a pro or college athlete at any level requires an exceptional talent as well as desire.
Health wise, it is also important to get a wide range of training. Bev Smith, the former head women’s basketball coach at the University of Oregon lamented that her athletes coming from high school were breaking down during the season. The reason, she felt, was the newer phenomenon of year round basketball training which was forcing the player into training sport specific muscles and they were not able to handle the increased load of college athletics.
Part of this problem also stems from the lack of PE in schools, but it also falls on coaches and parents to encourage if not demand that our young athletes train their bodies not just their drills.
Coaches should do different things in practice to use all muscles. Practicing a crossover dribble or throwing off a mound is not enough. The all-around best exercise for athletes in any sport might just be a game of tag. Which brings me back to the number one reason for playing multiple sports – it’s a lot of fun.