The Multi-sport Athlete: A Dying Breed Ever since the first competition of throwing a spear, contests have determined who is stronger, faster, and smarter in a specific skill. The competitors, now better known as athletes, are beginning to specialize in a specific type of competition. Growing up, young athletes participate in a variety of sports, but they often specialize in one before even entering high school. There are numerous exceptions of athletes playing multiple sports, but these multi-sport athletes are becoming a dying breed.
These players have become engrossed in a specific sport, not wanting to play others which can sometimes affect their athletic ability as well as the success of the school’s athletic program. Athletes should be encouraged, not deterred, to use their skills and ability to play multiple sports in the adolescence of their life. At young ages, parents register their children for recreational sports with hope that the child will spend energy on a wide open field under the supervision of another adult.
If the child does well in the sport or the kid is having fun, the parent feels obligated to do more. Often, the young athlete will begin to compete in Amateur Athletic Unions—a travel league in the area—and eventually, if good enough, around the state and nation. These year round travel leagues consume the nights of a young middle school athlete with practices along with their weekends with far traveling games or tournaments. Year round, the young athlete is held to a high performance standard so that the parent is not disappointed for putting so much time and money into their child’s future.
The parent hopes that because of the child’s talented athletic ability, he/she will be able to earn a scholarship to play that sport at the collegiate level. But what if the child is not good enough to achieve the high status of an athletic scholarship in the sport he/she invested so much time, money, and effort into? When going through elementary but more specifically middle school, young athletes should be exposed to many different types of sports to explore the options that he/she may be good at.
The initial exposure to sports and what the parent and child may think the young athlete appears be good at might not always be the case. An athlete’s first sport might not always be his/her best. There are numerous cases in which a basketball player may find football to be a better fit due to his aggression and explosiveness. Some of the best athletes that play at the professional level played two or three sports in high school. Their opportunity to play a sport in college was increased because of their selection of sport.
Their talented athletic ability was furthered by the skill sets in other sports. High school is a time in life in which the adolescent should have fun and experience many activities without their parents always guiding them. Specializing in one sport early on does not give the child much experience or exposure in other fields. Rather, they are consumed in one sport. These kids are being pressured into going to specialization camps over summer, and quite frankly, “kids don’t have fun anymore” (Lasnier).
Fun brings memories, and there are numerous cases in which previous high school athletes regret quitting other sports that they did not feel pressured in to simply enjoy high school and have fun (Altstaetter). Altstaetter, an Ohioan local sports columnist, also believes that high school should be about what someone can do in sports, not what they should do. So let the athlete choose which sport/sports should be played by giving them the option and without holding them back. Playing multiple sports gives the athlete various physical advantages over specialized athletes.
Contrary to the growing belief that coaches do not want their players playing multiple sports, an interview study conducted by Block, Leichenger, and Park, shows that high school coaches, particularly football coaches, want their players to play other sports as the athlete gain valuable skill sets that not only help improve the athlete, but transfer their abilities to the field. The hand-eye coordination as well as the balance of the body can drastically improves as a baseball player could use the timing of hitting a ball the same way he could tackle an opponent in football.
Different sports also improve overall physical shape and performance because different sports work different muscles. “By performing in different activities you are doing different types of activities, or cross-training. Even though your main sport may not utilize your shoulder muscles very much, improving them in your off-season sports may increase your performance in your main sport as well” (Tompkins). Being athletically fit is another advantage as the player is playing different sports year round causing one muscle group to rest while the other is being worked in a different sport.
According to Vern Gambetta, former director of conditioning of the Chicago White Sox and current president of Gambetta Sports Training System in Florida, it is possible to design a safe and effective strength program for multi-sport athletes in which they can still build muscle year-round, despite always being in a season. When done right, this muscle building technique can propel a multi-sport athlete ahead of his/her competition by strengthening muscles while gaining various skill sets on the field. On the field advantages are just a small portion of what athletes gain when playing two or more sports.
An athlete has champion like qualities, including heart, determination, preparation, mental toughness, and leadership (Zinger). These qualities transfer from the field into the classroom where athletes’ can also excel. Improved concentration, test scores, and time management are all qualities that transfer into the classroom that heighten an athlete’s performance (Bliss). Playing multiple sports can heighten these attributes as priorities increase and an athlete understands what is important in life. Beyond the playing field and post-college, athletes have an advantage in the workforce.
Most people want to get to the next level, but “athletes seldom lose the passion of always trying to improve themselves to get to the next level” (“What Can Collegiate”). The leadership qualities that the athlete once used on the field transfers to teamwork, vision of success, and concentration behind the desk. Athletes are driven, risk-analyzing and risk taking human beings which can help companies expand. A multi-sport athlete has the opportunity to gain worldly experience with the more sports he/she plays.
Parents and the athlete’s time does become consumed with practices, school work, and weekend games, but this is a small price to pay for the same development of an athlete that could be paying thousands of dollars at a training facility for the development in a single sport. These companies, such as the D1 training program, can cost parents thousands of dollars (over the years) for their child to try to get better. Some of the same skills can be gained, at a cheaper price, by playing other sports. Also, the year round activities of a multi-sport athlete will cause the athlete to ain muscle and weight to prevent injuries on a fragile skeletal system. When playing a single sport year round, “a certain type of stress [is imposed] on your body with the same repetitive motions you’re going to go through” and “playing the same sport year-round will accelerate that wear and tear [on tendons, ligaments and cartilage]” (Lasnier). For example, a young hockey player that grows up on the rink playing year round experiences wear and tear on his/her hip muscles with the result of that hockey player needing hip surgery at age 17.
According to Lasnier—a Canadian renowned strength coach—the pressures and set-backs of playing multiple sports can easily be countered by simple solutions of playing multiple sports that can pay off in tremendous feats. Significant role models should encourage an athlete to better him/herself by playing a second or third sport. Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” plan is encouraging children to put down the video game controller to get outside to play.
Sports and recreational activities reduce the obesity rate among young children, so the more sports the child plays, the less time in front of the television and the more time playing outside with friends. The plan helps aware parents that their child needs to get out and play, so the parent need to help their child by signing him/her up for other recreational sports at an early age to see if he/she likes it rather than waiting until high school to go out for a varsity sport. Even when in high school, coaches on other sport teams should try to recruit football players to play a spring sport such as lacrosse or soccer.
The NFL’s “Play 60” uses professional athletes to encourage children to play not only football, but any sport. Professional athletes’ role model status should be encouraging more children to play multiple sports so that the dreams and aspirations that they had as a child can come true later on in their life. The possibilities for young athletes are endless and the rewards are greater than anticipated. Getting already existing athletes to play another sport not could not only help out the athletic team, but also the development of the athlete.
There have been and still are numerous examples of athletes playing multiple sports, but these multi-sport athletes are “dying off”. The restoration of America’s problems starts with the development of a new youth, a youth that runs through tennis shoes rather than wearing out game controllers. This youth has become nonexistent and needs to be found. Works Cited Altstaetter, Mark. “Where Have the Multi-Sport Athletes Gone? ” 20 June 2011. Lima Sports. 19 February 2012 <http://varsity. limaohio. com/articles/gone-6690-mark-multi. html>. Bliss, Kevin. Do Sports Help Improve Grades? 1 Aug 2011. 28 April 2012. <http://www. livestrong. om/article/506980-do-sports-help-improve-grades/>. Block, Austin; Leichenger, Alex; Park, Jean. “Multiple sports benefit athletes, coaches say. ” 27 May 2009. The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle. 2012 February 2012 <http://students. hw. com/chronicle/Sports/SportsArticles/tabid/1292/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/3365/Multiple-sports-benefit-athletes-coaches-say. aspx>. Gambetta, Vern. “The Multi-Sport Challenge. ” 13 November 2003. Momentum Media. 19 February 2012 <http://www. momentummedia. com/articles/tc/tc1308/multisport. htm>. Lasnier, David. “Top 3 Reasons Not to Play a Sport Year-Round. ” 17 February 2011.
David Lasnier. 19 February 2012 <http://davidlasnier. com/2011/top-3-reasons-not-to-play-a-sport-year-round>. Tompkins, Judith. “The Advantages of Playing Multiple Sports. ” 25 August 2011. Live Strong. 29 April, 2011 <livestrong. com/article/526927-the-advantages-of-playing-multiple-sports/> “What Can Collegiate Athletes do in the Workforce? ” Career Athletes. 28 April 2012. <http://www. careerathletes. com/whyathletes2. php>. Zinger, David. “13 Champion Qualities for Athletes and Managers. ” Every Joe (2009). Web. 28 April 2012. <http://everyjoe. com/work/13-champion-qualities-for-athletes-and-managers/>.