I ran into a good family friend this past weekend and we began catching up on what’s been going on with one another over the past couple of years. She has two sons who are seven and eight, and they are involved in many activities outside of school, both sports-related and other.
We somehow got on the topic of the other parents she interacts with regularly on the baseball diamond and in the basketball stands, and how a staggering amount are already trying to specialize their child – at age seven – in one sport. This seemed odd to her given their young age. Given my background in sports and the fact that I now work in the field of athletics and recruiting, she asked my take on the subject:
Should my child play multiple sports?
This is a topic we talk about a lot at NCSA and is also one of the highest trending questions we get from parents calling in and those out at events.
It’s also a question our student-athletes ask our recruiting coaches on a daily basis: Should I stop playing “x” so I can focus more on “y”?
The truth is, forcing your child to specialize in a sport too early is not only putting your son or daughter at a disadvantage; it could be downright hurting them.
The misconception that only doing one thing or playing one sport will make you better at it is simply not the case. Studies have proven it. Former athletes will attest to it, too. So how come?
Development in multiple areas is important.
Exposure to different activities and people at a young age is invaluable. Developing different skills sets is good for many reasons, but one of the strongest reasons is that these different skill sets only complement each other and make you a better all-around player.
There is this idea that “If I’m trying to become a better softball player I shouldn’t take time away from softball to play volleyball, a sport I don’t feel as strong in but enjoy.”
The bottom-line is that playing both sports is developing different muscles, skills, and ways of thinking that simply won’t be done by limiting yourself to one of the two experiences.
It also adds variety to your schedule, which makes for less of a chance to get burnt out, and exposes you to different groups of people. Same goes for adding an instrument or non-sport related area of interest as an extracurricular, too. These are all wins.
Specializing too early can put you at higher risk for injury.
I just mentioned that playing multiple sports helps develop different muscle groups, which is good for the body for many reasons and makes you an overall better athlete.
Taking this a step further, specializing too early can actually severely hurt physical development making you more prone to injury later on. Imagine if a young boy begins training year-round as a left-handed pitcher at age eight. This means, by age thirteen, he’s been regularly throwing with his left-arm for five years already.
And he’s not even in high school.
That arm muscle is not only going to be majorly over-worked; think of the other areas that haven’t been getting any work in key years for growth and development.
Let kids be kids.
Numbers don’t lie – seven, eight, even nine years of age is not old enough to have had the chance to experience enough sports or activities to narrow down and know that’s what they want to play.
Kids need the opportunity to experience a wide range of extracurriculars so they can feel good about what they’re doing and confident where their talents lie. As they develop their overall athleticism, you’ll be able to help them understand where their passions and talents lie. And as your child gets closer to high school and searching for the right college athletic opportunity, remember: college coaches look for potential. They are interested in seeing gifted students with overall athleticism.
You may really, really want your son or daughter to be a basketball player for whatever reason, but pushing them into it also has a recipe for resentment and early burn-out.
Will your son or daughter be able to try every sport and every extra activity out there? Of course not. With the scheduling and financial commitment so many of these activities take, that would be impossible.
But you can help them explore their interests and hone in on a variety of skills. It is so much better for them in the long run, (or walk, or swim, or dance!).
If you have more questions about what you can do to help your student-athlete get to college and succeed, our scouts are always here to help. Get your child started with a recruiting profile.