A recent chart has been circulating Twitter regarding Urban Meyer’s football recruits at Ohio State. I pulled the picture from @ohiovarsity, but I’ve seen it in many places already. At any rate, here it is:
In my time as a multi-sport coach and AD at various sized schools, I’ve often heard kids who are dropping one sport in order to “focus” on another.
My response to all of those kids is simple. When college coaches speak to high school coaches, one of the first questions often asked is, “What other sports does he/she play?” I can remember college football coaches coming to high school basketball games to see our kids play, and there are often college coaches at high school track meets watching kids compete.
Every now and then I hear the argument that college coaches prefer kids to spend all of their time preparing for one sport. I agree that there are probably some coaches like that, but they are in the LARGE minority. More so than having acute, specialized, sport-specific knowledge, college coaches are interested in other aspects of high school athletes:
– How does he/she move?
– How does he/she think?
– How does he/she work with teammates?
– How does he/she deal with adversity? (This is much easier to witness in a sport in which the athlete is not being recruited!)
– How does an athlete COMPETE?
I love that this picture has gone viral, and I love that it comes from a major program. Multi-sport kids are important to programs at every level from DI down to D3. Think about it from a coaches’ perspective:
– What football coach wouldn’t want a kid to have the balance that wrestling teaches? Or the change of direction that basketball teaches? Or the hand-eye coordination that baseball teaches? Or the competitive drive that track teaches?
– What hockey coach wouldn’t want that same hand-eye coordination from baseball? Or endurance from cross country or soccer? Or ability to explode from track?
– What volleyball coach wouldn’t want the increased communication skills that basketball teaches? Or that same explosion learned from track?
And I’m only speaking of sports that are offered in most schools, big or small. That endurance can come from soccer, cross country, swimming, or track. Hand/eye coordination? Not only from baseball or softball, but also from tennis, basketball, volleyball, and hockey. The ability to balance that I mentioned for wrestlers? Also a huge skill for gymnasts. Change of direction? Basketball, soccer, tennis, softball, volleyball, and football. The examples are non-stop.
Outside of learning those skills and attributes across sport lines, how about being able to play for fun? As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post (here), it’s extremely difficult to advance from one level to the next in any single sport. There’s a really good chance that middle school and high school are the last chances that athletes will have to play many different sports. If a kid enjoys playing a sport, middle/high school is the time to play it!
A quick search for multi-sport athletes will field a ton of examples and quotes. Here were some of my favorites:
“If a sport has a high point of the year, it must be the first week of spring. When I was growing up, I used to love this time of year. It was when I put my hockey equipment away and I was absolutely ecstatic to see the end of the hockey season. One of the worst things to happen to the game, in my opinion, has been year-round hockey and, in particular, summer hockey. All it does for kids, as far as I can tell, is keep them out sports they should be doing in the warmer weather. I could hardly wait to get my lacrosse stick out and start throwing the ball against the walls and working on our moves as we played the lacrosse equivalent to road hockey. All the good hockey players seemed to play lacrosse in those days and everyone of them learned something from the game to carry over to the other – things athletes can only learn by mixing up the games they play when they are young.”
— Wayne Gretzky (pretty decent hockey player)
“The first questions I’ll ask about a kid are, “What other sports does he play? What does he do? What are his positions? Is he a big hitter in baseball? Is he a pitcher? Does he play hoops?” All of those things are important to me. I hate that kids don’t play three sports in high school. I think that they should play year-round and get every bit of it that they can through that experience. I really, really don’t favor kids having to specialize in one sport. Even here, I want to be the biggest proponent for two-sport athletes on the college level. I want guys that are so special athletically, and so competitive, that they can compete in more than one sport.” – Pete Carroll, USC football coach at the time of the quote, now head coach for the Seattle Seahawks
“Today, a lot of kids individualize in a specific sport. I think one of the things that helped me most was playing everything. I played basketball, I played football, I ran track. I even played soccer one year, [and] I played baseball. I think it allowed me to recruit different muscles [and] work on different things that I normally wouldn’t. And, it gave me a greater appreciation for the sport that I’ve come to love.” – Larry Fitzgerald, WR for the Arizona Cardinals
“The early teens are a difficult age because definitely you want your kids to grow up and do whatever they want to do; you don’t want to push them too hard in one particular sport. My parents allowed me to play volleyball and softball and basketball and soccer at one time and I loved it. I was playing all these other sports so it wasn’t too much wear on the soccer field and it wasn’t too much wear on a repetitive exercise.” – Alex Morgan, USA Women’s Soccer
I could go on, but you get the idea. In a future blog post, I’ll focus more on the detriment of sport specialization, but for now, I wanted to shed a little light on some of the positives of multi-sport athletics.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know via comment, email, Twitter, or Facebook!