There has been a push in recent years for athlete specialization. Statistics have shown over the past two decades that instances of sport specialization, with kids playing only one sport, have more than doubled within the United States. We at Newbury Park find it beneficial and promote students playing multiple sports and being involved in a wide variety of activities.
There are a number of reasons playing multiple sports can be beneficial for athletes. Here is a snapshot of a few of the major reasons:
- It can help student-athletes avoid burnout. Playing the same sport every single day can cause athletes to burn out on a sport that they once loved. This is especially true with younger kids. Playing multiple sports can help avoid this burnout by allowing young athletes to see a plethora of sports and from there they can make a better informed decision on which sport they eventually want to make their priority.
- It can help students develop skills and traits that make them a more rounded athlete and person. The footwork used in basketball can help on the football field. The toughness required in wrestling or soccer can help make a player more aggressive and fearless on the volleyball court. Simply the ability to compete learned in one sport can have a huge impact in another. The social and emotional growth of athletes who are experiencing different team settings and different types of coaching can benefit them throughout the rest of their lives.
- It can help prevent overuse injuries. Sport specialization took off roughly over the last 20-25 years. One case study example during that time: Tommy John surgeries, common in Major League Baseball to repair a torn UCL in a pitcher’s elbow. The first operation was done in 1974, and between 1974-1998 there were less than 20 in MLB. Every year this millennium has seen more Tommy John surgeries than were performed between 1974-1998, with that number reaching 46 by 2012. Doctors have attributed this huge increase in UCL tears largely to sport specialization and overuse. This wearing down of overused muscles doesn’t just happen in baseball, it can happen across all sports, and with a wide number of muscles.
- Playing multiple sports gives students more opportunities to build life skills and learn life lessons. Sports are a wonderful opportunity for student-athletes to build confidence, learn to work with a team, learn discipline, and grow through adversity. Athletes have the opportunity to take things away from their participation in sports on a daily basis. Playing only one sport minimizes the impact being a part of different teams can have on an athlete.
A recent survey would seem to support that being a multi-sport athlete is beneficial, finding that 96% of the athletes (102/106) participating in Super Bowl LII had participated in at least two sports in high school. The full list of those sports can be found here.
The NFHS ran an article on The Importance of Multi-Sport Participation in 2016.