Sports specialization at an early age is a trend that has negative impacts on the development of young athletes. There are several compelling reasons why young athletes should play as many sports as possible.
1. Playing as many sports as possible will make you a whole person.
Do we specialize our children if we find that they are science phenoms? We do not. Even in specialized science and technology magnets schools, students still have to learn English, social studies, music, and physical education. I coached football at such a school for a year in a past life. We made the playoffs too.
Likewise, your child may be a football phenom, but will he truly benefit by just playing football only? I support playing multiple sports for the same reason we teach students all the disciplines. It will make you a whole person.
2. Playing as many sports as possible will accelerate and enhance motor skill development.
If a swimmer just swims all the time and does nothing else, that swimmer will be terribly awkward with land-based sports. Kids learn and grow by doing. Playing different sports that require different skill sets and movements will make kids stronger, more coordinated, and more athletic.
3. Playing as many sports as possible will prevent burnout.
How many stories do we hear about gymnasts burning out before they reach high school? Beyond the stories of the gymnasts on Team USA are numerous untold stories of burnout due to athletes performing the same routine everyday.
Variety in the weight room is necessary to break through plateaus. Variety on the athletic field is necessary to keep motivation high.
4. Playing other sports will prevent overuse injuries.
Performing the same movement patters at a very high level everyday will stress joints, muscles, and tendons. Playing other sports will maintain and enhance fitness and athletic ability while preventing overuse injuries.
5. Playing other sports will enhance social skills.
I tell my football players to run track in the spring. While a football game is a major community event with great pomp and circumstance, a track meet is more like a picnic. Kids are pitching a tent, camping out, socializing, reading, sleeping, and getting ready for their events. It is fun. It is every bit as competitive, but it is a nice change of pace.
Track and field is also a co-ed sport at many schools. The sexes compete amongst themselves, but the team will train together, travel together, and eat together. There may even be female coaches for male athletes. Competing in a co-ed environment will help football players respect and admire female authority and learn how to support, encourage, and cheer for their female teammates.
6. Playing other sports will help athletes learn new roles.
A top-line female hockey player may be a bench player in softball. A star lacrosse player may be standing on the sidelines as a football player on Friday nights.
Star athletes will not always be star athletes in every sport they play. This will help teach kids the value of humility, diligence, and teamwork. There is much to learn for kids being third on the depth chart.
7. Playing other sports is fun!
This speaks for itself.
Every kid will have a #1 sport, but allow them room to develop their skills and make memories in their #2 and #3 sports as well.