3 Reasons to Encourage Playing Multiple Sports / by James Leath

There are lessons learned by playing multiple sports as a child that increase an athlete's ability to perform in other sports. You hear people talk about a "natural athlete", but nature played a small role in the development of that athlete. There is a good chance that athlete has experience challenging his or her mind and body in other sports during youth. Current athletic stars like Russel Wilson and Johnny Manziel were drafted out of high school to play baseball, yet we see them on Sunday's playing football at the highest level. Even coaching great Pete Carroll is an advocate for playing multiple sports as heard on a radio show just a few days ago. [link] Here are 3 Reasons to Encourage Playing Multiple Sports as an adolescent. And before I get asked when I think an athlete should focus on one sport, here is my answer: sophomore or junior year of high school. Then again, no one athlete is like the other, so if I was pressed I would say wait even longer. Childhood only happens once. 

1.Mental Toughness Gained through Adversity

When an athlete goes from being the best on the team in one sport to a role player in another sport, they get to learn how to deal with adversity. Adversity and learning new skills develops mental toughness. When they go back to their primary sport where they are the best, they are a better leader because they had to become a follower. This skill translates very well in the adult world.

2.Physical Maturation of the Whole Body

Parents, your child will have a better chance of playing sports in college if they are an athlete with 10,000 hours of athleticism. College recruiters don’t want someone with only one set of skills. Skills can be taught, but athleticism is earned through years of acceleration, deceleration, rotational power, read and react, and all the other things an athlete learns by participating in multiple sports. There is no single sport that develops all of these skills alone, and therefore no child should only participate in one sport alone.

3.Prevent Burnout

According to Michael Pfahl, executive director of the National Youth Sports Coaches Association, “The number one reason (why they quit) is that it stopped being fun.”  Kids experience burnout in one sport, and with the pressure to always be the best, they end up missing out on childhood. Not only does the athlete get burned out, but the parents exhaust themselves physically and financially unnecessarily.

I have almost 20 years of experience coaching ages 8-21. That means kids I coached in elementary school are now in college or have graduated. Every single one, without exception, played at least three sports in grade school and at least two sports in high school.

Every, single, athlete — without exception.

So take it from someone who wants nothing but success for your child – let them play other sports. Let them develop to their full athletic potential and let them experience trying a sport in which they are not a superstar. The lesson they learn from having that experience will benefit them long after they hang up the cleats and tackle being an adult.