Should you be telling your child to choose ONE sport? Clearly, we have seen athletes compete in two different sports at major levels over the past century…Deion Sanders, Jim Brown, Bo Jackson, Jim Thorpe, to name a few. Given those exceptional athletes, we'd be lucky if we could name a dozen more like them. Over 100+ years that is not a lot!
So here lies the question…Should you be telling your child to focus on one sport so he/she can compete at a high level - potentially the Major League level? Will playing multiple sports make a better “all-round” athlete; therefore, making them the best ball player he can be?
If your child is athletic you are most likely asking the same question half the parents of my students do, “At what age should I tell Johnny to just focus on one sport? He’s in 8th grade, does he need to make that decision now? Can he wait till high school?” OR are you like the other half saying “I encourage playing as many sports as possible because it creates a better all-round athlete.”
In my opinion neither of those schools of thought are correct. My answer, in short, is that you shouldn't TELL a player to play multiple sports NOR to just focus on one sport. Instead present him/her with the truth & let him/her make the decision.
So what is the truth?
Because I'm a baseball guy, I'm going to look at it from a baseball perspective. If your son or daughter is playing baseball or softball and wants to compete at a very high level then it's important to understand that there are other ball players focusing solely on playing ball and getting better and better every day! And if he/she wants be able to compete right alongside those players then he/she should be focused and training to play baseball.
True, people are born with different levels of baseball ability. For that reason one player may be able to play multiple sports & still compete at a very high level; while another player may fall behind if he/she spreads their time playing multiple sports.
Another truth I believe is people tend to be happier when they feel a level of independence & freedom about decisions that are made that affect their lives. I believe the same holds true for teenagers. I've had players tell me, "I want to just focus on baseball, but my dad says he wants me to play basketball too, because it's great conditioning for baseball."
Well here’s a little story, I played high school basketball my freshman & sophomore years & my body felt tired & somewhat depleted at the end of the season. Unfortunately, the end of the basketball season is also the beginning of the baseball season and going into the season I wasn’t the best ball player I knew I could be. In fact, my batting average as a sophomore on varsity was .290. Fast forward to my junior & senior years of high school when I just focused on strength/speed training, with some cross training to create the "well-rounded” athletic baseball player I wanted to be & as a result, I was strong as a bull going into the season. My junior year, I batted .600 on varsity. The point is that playing another competitive sport doesn't necessarily make you a better baseball player. However, if the option is sitting around playing video games (which I proudly say I never owned one video game my entire life...topic for another day) all winter or playing another sport, like basketball, then yes, basketball is definitely a better form of training.
When I decided to only play baseball, I had a lot of people telling me, "you should play multiple sports." "Do things other than just playing baseball...be well-rounded."
Some parents believe in telling their kids to play multiple sports & they feel that they are helping to "create" a "well-rounded" athlete. Unfortunately, sometimes being “well-rounded” means being mediocre at a lot of different things.
So, just be honest with your player and give him/her the potential benefits & consequences of each decision. If your player, like me, wants to only play baseball, let him. I'm very happy with the path I chose. Why? Because it was the path I CHOSE. My parents supported me 100% when I made the decision. And because I chose to focus on that one sport I was able to pitch professionally for 7 years. Now, if a player loves playing multiple sports & is willing to potentially sacrifice being the best he can be in one sport then let him make that decision. Some players love the experience of playing multiple sports. If that's truly what your player wants, even knowing the consequences, he/she will be happy and at the very least, you "gave him/her the choice."
Finally, even though there have been some incredibly talented athletes who are known for competing in multiple sports…John Elway, Charlie Ward, and Danny Ainge…to name a few more, it’s a rarity. If the desire is there to play professionally then encourage your player to focus on becoming the best they can at the sport they love!
Here’s some food for thought, if those exceptional high-level multi-sport athletes I mentioned in this article actually just focused on one sport would they have set the bar even higher then did? Sadly, we will never know.
Provide players with the facts.
Offer them advice & guidance.
Support their decision and I promise you & your player will be much happier because of it.
What are your thoughts, do you think those athletes would have excelled at an even higher level if they just focused on one sport? Comment below…