With the growth of hyper-competitiveness in youth sports, a question we receive more and more often is whether kids should specialize in one sport or play multiple sports. A recent study released by Tracking Football analyzed the 2017 NFL Draft first-round picks and how many sports they played in high school. The data is enlightening!
The study found that 30 of the 32 players picked in the first round of the NFL draft were multi-sport athletes in high school. Within that study, 20 of the top 32 NFL draftees played two sports in high school, and 14 of the 32 played three sports in high school. While there were still two draft picks of the 32 in the first round that did not play multiple sports in high school, the data shows that the overwhelming amount of the top football players in the nation picked were well-rounded athletically.
With all the extra resources that are available for athletes such as individual lessons and travel teams, sports have become more competitive even at the youngest age levels. Specializing in a sport can help an athlete understand that sport more in-depth and enhance specific skills. However, the benefits of multiple sports outweigh the advantages of specialization.
When young athletes are exposed to multiple sports, they learn a variety of motor skills and knowledge that they can use and intertwine between the different sports. When younger athletes play multiple sports, it gives them the chance to discover their favorites. Even if a child gets frustrated in a sport in which they aren’t the best, it teaches them the importance of practice and the value of working hard for improvement.
Playing one sport can take a toll on an athlete both mentally and physically. When playing one sport year-round it doesn’t offer an athlete the rest that is available between seasons of different sports. When you are going through the same motions and workouts continuously, it can lead to overuse of muscles and create chronic injury problems.
Playing one sport can be mentally draining as well. It can put a lot of pressure on young athletes and cause a lot of stress from the lofty expectations that come with the continuous involvement and training.
If there are not many choices for different sports leagues or teams to join, playing one sport can mean being on the team with the same people every day and going to the same fields or courts every day. Athletes who begin to play one sport early in their athletic careers often grow tired of being in the same routine continuously for years. Playing different sports gives children the opportunity to meet new friends and teammates and have a change of venue. Burning out from a sport can lead to losing the excitement and interest in sports.
Cross-training allows children to learn different skills and problem-solving techniques from each sport. This knowledge not only helps them be well-rounded on the field, but it also transitions into their lives off the field. Through playing sports, children can develop traits like leadership, self-confidence and a goal-oriented mindset that will continue to help them in their personal lives, at school and even in their careers.
Have you ever considered how a multi-sport approach can make your child a better athlete? After all, the previously mentioned NFL draftees who played multiple sports in high school didn’t just benefit from exposure to different sports, fewer injuries, less burnout and mental growth—they also gained motor skills and knowledge from one sport and applied it to another. Different sports share many things in common, so it’s reasonable that skills learned in one discipline can translate to another.
Studies show that kids who try many sports and activities before the age of 12 develop improved physical literacy and athleticism. So if you want your child to become the best athlete they can be, encourage multi-sport participation! Here’s a closer look at how playing one sport can help with another.
Basketball involves dribbling and passing the ball while moving up and down the court as a team. The sport teaches players how to defend their possession of the ball, get open for a pass and shoot a basket. It also teaches fair defensive tactics, such as blocking opponents, intercepting passes and securing rebounds.
Many of the same techniques are also found in soccer—players simply use their feet instead of their hands. Both sports even use the same terminology—dribbling—to describe how players move the ball up and down the court (or field, in the case of soccer).
Soccer players learn agility, coordination and spatial awareness. They must also know how to anticipate where the ball will go so they can complete passes successfully. The ability to track and respond to the soccer ball’s location requires good communication and coordination with teammates.
The same goes for volleyball! Players may remain on their side of the net during the game, but it’s impossible to reach the ball in time without agility and spatial awareness. Passing in the right direction also requires good ball tracking skills. And without communicating and coordinating, players would be liable to run into each other.
Flag football involves short bursts of speed to progress the ball toward the end zone. Then, passing the ball or grabbing an opponent’s flag requires good hand-eye coordination.
These same skills are useful for lacrosse players, who also run in short bursts and must develop hand-eye coordination to catch the ball with a lacrosse stick. Lacrosse skills also transfer back to flag football, helping receivers make cuts, locate the ball and anticipate movement more effectively.
Good volleyball players learn how to track the ball, running, jumping and diving as necessary to save it from hitting the ground. Speed is essential to keep the ball in play. Then, players must have accuracy when serving, passing and spiking the ball.
Basketball requires similar skills. Good ball tracking helps players catch the ball, and accuracy helps them pass better and score more baskets.
Soccer and lacrosse have different strategies and modes of transporting the ball up and down the field, but they are actually considered crossover sports. After all, they have a similar field layout, nearly identical positions and the same number of players on the field at once. It’s no surprise, then, that the skills learned while playing soccer translate to lacrosse and vice versa.
Baseball players learn agility and quickness, which prove essential for both fielding and base running. Of course, these skills are also useful for moving a basketball up and down the court, capturing an opponent’s flag, and dribbling a soccer ball down the field. As a result, playing any one of these sports can help improve performance in the others.
At i9 Sports®®, we offer youth sports leagues, camps and clinics for boys and girls ages 3 and up. To achieve our mission of Helping Kids Succeed in Life through Sports®, we provide a youth sports experience unlike any other. Our age-appropriate programs include one-day-a-week classes to work around your busy schedule, and we emphasize good sportsmanship both on the court and in everyday life. To us, this is The Way Youth Sports Should Be®.