Yet this excellent blog article on a high school sports site got over half a million shares in its first three days because this image touched a nerve. John founded the Changing the Game Project in , which promotes a child-centred approach to youth sport. Follow John on Twitter , Facebook , or read more at his blog. The image above clearly demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of his recruits are multi-sport kids.
This is not new information, but it has caused quite a stir.
Guest post by John O’Sullivan
Here is what it says in a nutshell: To be an elite level player at a college or professional sport, you need a degree of exceptional athleticism. And the best medically, scientifically, and psychologically recommended way to develop such all around athleticism is ample free play and multiple sport participation as a child. What does he do? What are his positions? Is he a big hitter in baseball? Is he a pitcher? Does he play hoops? I think that they should play year-round and get every bit of it that they can through that experience.
Even [at USC], I want to be the biggest proponent for two-sport athletes on the college level.
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I want guys that are so special athletically, and so competitive, that they can compete in more than one sport. Probably 95 percent [of our players] are multi-sport athletes. Or Ashton Eaton, world record holder and gold medalist in the decathlon, who never participated in 6 of the 10 required decathlon events until he got to the University of Oregon.
Or Steve Nash , who got his first basketball at age 13 and credits his soccer background for making him a great basketball player, a similar story to the professional athletes interviewed in Ethan Skolnick and Dr. The list goes on and on. His advice was that a multi-sport background sets up athletes for long-term success by lowering the rates of injuries and making them more adaptable to the demands of elite level play.
Here are some other advantages:. No, they are not. They each require specific athletic, technical, and tactical skill sets. Some sports, in order to be elite, require early specialization, such as gymnastics and figure skating. Other sports are so dependent upon physical prowess American football, basketball, volleyball, rugby, and others that the technical skills and tactical know-how can be developed later.
There are many stories of athletes taking up these sports in their teens, even in their 20s, and playing at a very high level because of the ability to transfer skills learned in one sport to another. And then there are sports like hockey and soccer, which without a doubt require an early introduction to the sport. However, there is no evidence that pre-teen athletes in these sports should only play a single sport.
As both the hockey evidence and the interview with Tony Strudwick mentioned above demonstrate, playing multiple sports early on sets these athletes up for longer-term success. They can better meet the demands of elite level play. They are less likely to get injured or burnout, and more likely to persist through the struggles needed to become a high-level performer. If you want your child to play at a high-level, then the best thing you can do is help them find a sport that best suits their abilities, and help create an environment that gives them the best chance of success.
That environment is a multi-sport one. The evidence is in. But ask yourself this: Is your bottom line worth more than the well-being of the children you have been entrusted with educating? So what do you think? Should kids play multiple sports? If you think specialization is the right path prior to the teenage growth spurt excluding gymnastics and figure skating , then by all means bring some evidence and links to the discussion. And if not, then how about some thoughts on how we can stand up and change the status quo that forces kids to choose far too young. Thanks to Urban Meyer and the poignant image of his recruiting class breakdown, we now have the opportunity to have this discussion.
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We have the opportunity to serve our children better. We have the responsibility to help them become better athletes by encouraging them to become all-around athletes.
And we can do this by letting them play multiple sports. Let the discussion begin. Actually this is true for gymnastics too.
Can you guess the one thing that most elite athletes have in common?
It does not require early specialization, but just attracts younger kids. I know elite gymnasts who started in college and I myself am an elite gymnast who started in high school. I was a multi-sport athlete in high school. I was also Academic All-State Basketball. It helped me get a full ride to a university. I played tennis in college. In high school, I had a very driven basketball coach, who actually was my elementary school PE teacher, too. He put a basketball in my hands when I was 5. By the time we were in high school, he expected us to play basketball 10 months a year.
By the end of my high school senior year, all but one other senior had quit the team. I think coaches, even at the high school level, are paid more money if they win their District, their Regional, and their Sectional tournaments, and then make it to the final 4 at State.
Although, actually, the summer leagues were fun, because a volunteer coach my dad coached, and everyone got to play. After all that, the high school coach still played who he wanted anyway.
I had fun playing tennis in college. Two of the other girls on my high school basketball team, who went on to play college basketball, HATED college ball. But you become more well-rounded, make more friends, and have a good psychological break. I know of men who have heart attacks on the basketball court from over-exerting themselves when they are older.
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A lifetime sport is a good mental break from another sport, if the other sport is more serious and strenuous. I find lifetime sports to be very social now. At my last job, I joined a mixed doubles league and those other players became good friends. Oh, and I ended up winning awards for playing tennis in college, too. In my opinion, it is important that children take part in several sports. Even more importantly, I think that they start early enough.
Coaches and elite athletes
Of course, they first learn sports through the game. Sport is also important for the development of personality. The acquired characteristics can be used in other areas of life. In my blog article http: I completely Agree, Multisport is the way to go at least until high school. Where most of out kids play travel AAU basketball in Summer, but some play soccer or baseball..
Plus Summer camps etc. The issue is they are trying to do Multi-Sport at the same time all year round. So there basically playing 2 sports at the same time all year long. Absolutely pro muliti sports in this house. It also keeps my kids focused and they meet friends and learn accountability towards their team. These are the reasons I put them in sports. If they become a top athlete that will be amazing. That is why i have always been pro multi activities. Cudos to all the families out there that take every waking minute of downtime they got to run back and forth from sport to sport.
Watching their peers and others helps as well. I think the big part of encouraging somebody is believing in them. As a dad I try to do what my dad did for me. He took me to ballgames, played catch with me and believed in me. And I am trying to copy that example with my own kids. As a parent, when I watched my daughter play basketball, I tried to avoid sitting where other parents would ask me questions, like why the coach was playing this person and not that one.
My priority as a spectator was to respect what the coach was doing. The reality is, someone is going to play more and someone is going to play less. They have to learn how to deal with it. Sports today is too centered around showcasing individual performance rather than focusing on helping the team. What is more important than learning how to be a great teammate? Kids have to learn how to work together and be their best within the context of a team.
I tell him that there is a learning curve with any experience. I remind him how he got to where he is. I also give him my story as a coach. That was hard for me. In the second year we had the best turnaround in Division I. So what if I had walked away and given up? As parents, we want our children to succeed, but we also need to be open and honest with our kids about where their talents lie. I think there is a champion. When my kids were little, I was big on multisport play for them. It taught my kids how to be leaders but also to be good followers.
In high school, one of my boys wanted to give up soccer. You made a commitment to stay on the team this season, so quitting is never an option. And we literally wrote them down together: I like being with my friends, doing the drills, the time in the locker room, wearing the team sweatshirt.