A recent look at the 2016 NFL Draft showed that 28 out of 31 first round draft picks were multi-sport athletes – 12 of which played more than two. This year’s draft, along with many before it, debunks the “more is better” myth many parents and coaches follow in regards to athletic development. Many parents fear if they do not pick a single sport and focus all their child’s time on it, they will fall behind the competition, ruining their chances of success. When looking at professional athletes from all different sports, this simply is not true. In fact, early specialization may actually ruin your son/daughter’s chances of playing at the next level.
The more your athlete plays, the more likely they will get hurt. This is not a mathematical lesson in probability. Instead, I am referring to the fact that athletes that play the same sport year-round are much more likely to experience over-use injuries compared to athletes that do not. Each sport has its own unique stress on the body, whether it be the shoulder for baseball pitchers or the groin for a soccer player. By constantly playing, imbalances form and over-use injuries are soon to follow.
No Strength, No Speed
When athletes are playing, they cannot be developing their strength and speed. This may seem like a Catch-22, but the biggest factor for athletes to be able to play at the next level is strength and speed – not necessarily skill. Moreover, skills can still be developed while going through a strength and conditioning program, but strength and speed cannot be improved much during a competitive season.
Lastly, athletes that are constantly playing the same sport are likely to get burnt out. Too often parents push their children harder and harder, adding more practices and games to their already full schedule. Even though the athlete may enjoy playing the sport, eventually they will wish they had more time for other activities and their friends. Getting burnt out like this could cause a very talented athlete to completely give up the sport they once loved to play.
How to Reach the Next Level
- Strength and Conditioning – Getting your athlete involved in a solid strength and conditioning program is by far the best thing you can do to develop your son/daughter into a better athlete. Not only will their performance greatly improve, the likelihood of them experiencing an injury will decrease as well.
- Nutrition – Athletes need proper nutrition to grow and develop. Without adequate levels of protein, carbs, and fat; athletes will struggle to gain the necessary strength and speed to play at the next level.
- Multi-Sports – Playing multi-sports is a great way to create a well-rounded athlete. Each sport places a unique demand on the athlete, forcing them to adapt and grow.
- Rest – Resting is important to allow the mind and body to recharge. Taking days off from games, practice, and training is important to allow the body to repair itself. It is also very important to get good rest on a nightly basis.