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Sports specialization? Not For These NFL First Round Draft Picks

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There is mounting pressure for student-athletes to specialize earlier and earlier in life. The logic follows that in order to compete at the highest level, student-athletes need to practice and train exclusively in one sport. At face value this makes sense, but the numbers do not back up the thesis.

26 of the 31 first-round picks in the 2016 NFL Draft played multiple sports in high school, according to Tracking Football.

Contrary to popular opinion, the vast majority of NFL prospects did not specialize in football in high school. The 2016 NFL Draft was not an anomaly either, as at least 81-percent of NFL first-round picks have played multiple sports over the last four drafts, including 91-percent in 2013.

NCSA recruit Jared Goff was one of nine first-round picks who played three sports in high school — and another 17 competed in at least two sports.

Are you a multi-sport athlete? Here are our top tips on how you can use NCSA Athletic Recruiting.

Track and basketball were the two most popular high school sports among NFL first-round picks.

Everyone wants to clock in their 10,000 hours and become an expert in one particular sport, but this is clearly not the path to stardom. In fact, specialization can, in many cases, do more harm than good.

Should your child be a multi-sport athlete?

Sports specialization: Too much of a good thing?

Football in the fall. Football in the winter. Football in the spring. Football in the summer. Not only is this tiring to read, this type of schedule can break down young student-athletes.

Specialization can feel like a full-time job for many and the sport which they once loved has the potential to become a burden. Once the love for the game fades, many student-athletes get burned out and ultimately quit.

Of course not all student-athletes will get burned out, but specializing in one sport at the high school takes the fun out of the game.

Lose friends and alienate people

Sports specialization severs relationships among student-athletes and prevents them from fostering life-long friendships.

Sports are as much about relationships as they are about the outcome of games. When many former student-athletes reflect back on their athletic careers, they do not think about the games but rather their teammates and friends.

By specialization in one sport, student-athletes are missing out on one of the best parts of the high school experience, making friends.

Playing multiple sports in high school makes sense both on and off the field. So, stop worrying about falling behind others and remember that the very best athletes in the world play multiple sports in high school.


Whether you want to focus on playing one sport in college or multiple sports, we can help. The best way to get started is with a recruiting profile.

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About the author
Tom Johnson