Beyond Athletics

Is It Better To Be A One-Sport Athlete?

two boys play youth club lacrosse in the snow

(Flickr – Mike Morris)

We’ve written before about ways that multi-sport athletes are fiercer competitors. “Although most college coaches want multi-sport players, they are becoming fewer and farther between,” Charlie Adams wrote, a few weeks ago.

In today’s world, kids face pressure to pick a sport at an early age and specialize. Is that the route to being the best they can be in college and beyond? Absolutely NOT! The proof is in the team that stands above all others in United States sports — the 1980 U.S. hockey team

We think that’s pretty convincing. But maybe there are some who think Charlie’s exaggerating the case in the favor of multi-sport athletes. And then we found this article, questioning the same thing: Is it wise to specialize as a one-sport athlete?

Turns out, research in exercise science shows specialization negatively impacts athletic performance.

Among some of the more shocking statistics we saw were these:

  • Half of overuse injuries in young athletics come from children who specialize in one sport.
  • According to a study by Ohio State University, children who specialized early in a single sport became inactive adults. They stopped wanting to participate in sports.
  • Athletes who were specialized in one sport were 70-93% more likely to be injured.

Of course, defining what “young” means is an important distinction in these articles. There’s a big difference between a seven-year-old and a thirteen-year-old. And likely by the time you’re in high school, no matter what anyone says, you’ll know what your favorite sport is. Which sport you want to play in college.

But on the other hand, let’s say you like playing basketball and baseball. These statistics mean that’s ok. You’re building up a different set of skills than one-sport athletes.

“Research shows that early participation in multiple sports leads to better overall motor and athletic development, longer playing careers, increased ability to transfer sports skills to other sports and increased motivation, ownership of the sports experience, and confidence.”

Or this finding from a 2013 American Medical Society for Sports Medicine survey, which we thought was pretty cool: 88% of college athletes had participated in more than one sport. (Feel free to tweet that.) At the end of the day, it’s your life, and your recruiting journey. Do you want to be a multi-sport athlete? Do you want to specialize in one sport? No matter how your individual recruiting process shakes down, we can help you figure out how to use your skills to get in front of college coaches.

About the author
Andy McKernan

Andy McKernan is the content strategist at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. A content marketer with a background in creative writing, Andy brings several years of experience to NCSA.