Every so often the topic of the multi-sport athlete is raised in the media and I find myself reading about the personal benefits and collegiate advantages being a multi-sport athlete can bring. Almost all of these articles refer to increasing trend of high school athletes specializing in one sport earlier and more and more often – “whatever the reasons” is a common comment towards this trend.
My boys are 9 years old and 10 years old and while I am a firmly against “specializing” in any sport before college I find myself annoyed at the open ended why questions in these articles. The sheer exhaustion participating in multiple sports brings for both children and parents is reason in and of itself. I will argue that the benefits far outweigh the exhaustion but how anyone can downplay the fatigue is beyond me. During the month of basketball and soccer overlap, we had two practices back to back, twice a week. Now we are out of the dreaded season overlap but with multiple children we end up with soccer and/or keeper practices every single night of the week, plus games on the weekends. So many families do the weekend relay race, we just vary up the pieces, be it, karate to soccer game to swim, or softball to a hockey tournament to a piano recital, or, as in our case this weekend 5K race to soccer game to birthday party. One of my besties past weekends was volleyball tournament to choral performance for one child, while another child competed in a basketball tournament. As the kids get older the resource of time becomes more scarce, teams ask for larger commitments, the travel teams start travelling further and more often, school projects become bigger and more demanding (lest we forget the kids “day job”), and somewhere in all that we need to save time for our kids to just be kids – playdates, unstructured play, and relaxing.
The reason to read about the multi-sport athlete is not to become annoyed but to be reminded of the many benefits being a multi-sport athlete can bring to every child regardless of where their athletic career might take them. Did you know that according to TrackingFootball.com 88.7 percent of players in Super Bowl LI played multiple sports in high school – this includes 52.8 percent who were basketball players, 47.2 percent who competed in track and field, and 18.9 percent who played baseball. In Super Bowl L, the overall multi-sport athlete percentage was also 88 percent with two completely different NFL teams. Clearly there is a connection between competing at the highest levels and being a multi-sport athlete. More importantly, being a multi-sport athlete reduces injury rates in your child, reduces sports burnout, exposes kids to different kids and potentially different places with travel, and teaches about hard work, teamwork, failure, and success, just to name a few life lessons.
As rabid UCONN Huskies fans, we’ve been watching the HBO special UCONN: The March to Madness about the Women’s Basketball team, while watching my oldest had a “lightbulb” moment while Coach talked about not coaching endurance or desire – he turned to me and said, “that why we run and race, so no one ever has to coach our endurance in a basketball game.” Yep, little man, that’s one of the many reasons we run.
Again, my boys are young, and I’m not planning to live off of their pro-athlete million dollar salaries anytime soon, nor am I anticipating college scholarships but that doesn’t mean that all our crazy running around to be multi-sport athletes isn’t time well spent. The life lessons they are learning by playing competitive sports while tiring are invaluable. So, in case you too need the reminder that eventually all the sports craziness will be worth it, remember there is far more evidence supporting the advantages of multi-sport than disadvantages. And if you have any tricks, tips, advise for surviving multi-sport craziness, please pass them along!