One Sport Athletes

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:

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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!

510 Responses

  1. This is right on the money! I hope this message to participate in as many sports as one can spreads like wildfire. I’ll take the kids who know how to compete any day. Thanks!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      100% agree! Every coach at every level has some influence with this; your kids will appreciate your efforts, Coach Hays.

      1. NoSports

        I’ll go the opposite. We are here to educate our kids. We have placed way to much emphasis on something as insignificant as sports. With test scores dropping and market demands of our new employees, knowing how to shoot a free throw is useless info compared to how to calculate a slope gradient.

        1. jpc02043

          You are correct that getting an education is important. However, kids who participate in sports in HS are, by far, better students. They must learn to balance their educational responsibilities with the responsibility of playing sports, and in many cases, part time work. The “team skills” that kids learn while playing sports can’t be taught in the classroom. These skills are influential in developing a strong work ethic as they go through college, and in their careers. So, while learning to calculate a slope gradient is important, so is learning to execute a play, learn a system, improve your personal best, listen to a coach, encourage your teammates and take personal responsibility.

          1. Chris Faulkner

            Too long to give full details, but: my son (now a sr.) was the slowest kid on his XC and Trk team from 7th gr to 9th. Last or close to it at most meets. Tho he never made varsity in XC and not likely in track, he went from 8th from last Fr year in JV Conf XC meet to EIGHTH his soph and jr. years. That’s the athletic side. But socially he went from being a closed-up loner to being nearly a social butterfly. Academically, he has always need extra help and extra time, but as a senior, he does his homework without any input from me (tho it takes him a long time). I owe ALL of the improvements at all levels to his participation in the two running sports. He technically wasn’t multi-sport beyond running. But the two had him working nearly year round with a couple of breaks. I applaud the article above. (p.s. I am the sports editor for my small-town paper and in 34 years I know of only one, maybe two, athletes who exceled at one sport and did not play others).

          2. Carol Roessing

            I disagree with this view of the “teamwork skills”. There are plenty of times that students in the classroom work in teams on specific projects. In today’s business world, this is becoming the norm…my granddaughter works for a global consulting firm and confers with a team of 6 people all day long for the first 3 days of every week. I think it’s great that kids play a variety of sports, but today, it is overdone big time. They need to be exercising their brains more, and getting more sleep to grow up to be physically and mentally healthy. When late night practices and 3-4 game weekends interfere with homework and sleep, it’s time to tone down the amount of time spent on sports. Do you realize that only 1% of high school athletes are chosen for college sports? Is it really smart to sacrifice your child’s future well-being in the adult job market for hoping he’ll get a sports scholarship in college?

          3. highschoolsportsstuff

            You may enjoying reading this post. As an advocate of high school activities, I don’t entirely agree with your assessment, but I understand where you’re coming from. As an educator, I agree that our classrooms have slowly changed towards more collaboration – which has been a much needed change.

          4. Snowman

            “However, kids who participate in sports in HS are, by far, better students”
            Source? I’d love to see where you pulled this BS out of your @ss.. No they are NOT, NOT EVEN CLOSE, the metric between a student who studies and a “athlete” who studies isnt’ even close. That’s why there is soo much hand holding of these kids when they go to college, and then get in trouble via sexual assault, drugs, etc.. Look at MU Football for the last 5 years,, it’s a damn shame.. RGB, busted, other players, sexual assault on campus.. But Coaches act as if these animals can do no wrong because “he’s an athelete” Such disgusting BS.. and lets not start on how many concusions and brain damage that these kids incurr at the peewee, middleschool, highschool levels, We are creating monsters and then have the audacity to tell others “hey, leave em alone, they’re precious “Atheletes”…. Take that ignorant garbage where it belongs, in the dump.
            \smdh

          5. highschoolsportsstuff

            Actually, I could pull data every single year to show you that the activity participants in our district outperform the general population in the classroom. The quarterly GPA reports for our athletic teams consistently run higher than the average of the whole student body; the difference is even greater if we pull our athletes’ numbers out of the general population before calculating that average. It’s been like this in every district in which I’ve worked, so I’m guessing that it’s similar everywhere else. I can also tell you that our teachers typically expect more responsibility/accountability from our athletes; there isn’t any hand-holding going on here. Of course there are exceptions on both sides of the fence, but according to data, activity participants do better in the classroom than non-participants.

            You’re perpetuating a dangerous stereotype about athletes – football players, in particular, if I’m interpreting your comments correctly. First of all, the college athletes to which you’re referring represent only 6% of our high school athletes. To lump your opinion about all college athletes into an opinion about high school athletics is off base to begin with. More than that, how many total athletes fit your description? Growing up as the son of a multiple sport coach – including football, having played multiple sports in college – including five years of football, and having coached multiple youth sports – including football, I take personal offense to your comment that we are “creating monsters.” My opinion is the exact opposite; I believe that our educational based athletic programs at the high school level are, largely, creating responsible, motivated, trustworthy individuals who go on to lead successful adult lives.

            Are there exceptions? Of course…but I would place my bets on the character of behavior of extracurricular participants before the character and behavior of non-participants every day.

        2. Really?

          NoSports,
          Have you cared to look into how athletes’ test scores have been dropping compared to kids who are not involved in these so called “insignificant” activities? I think you’ll find that those involved in athletics achieve higher test scores on average than those students who do not.
          Athletics also instill a ton of invaluable philosophies, life skills, and work habits that students who do not participate don’t get an opportunity to experience; like working with a team toward a greater goal, placing the goals/success of the team above the glory of one’s self, having to work together within that team with various people and personalities that don’t necessarily always get along, keeping a good level of physical fitness in a society growing more and more obese/unhealthy, the want to compete and always improve/achieve more, etc.
          All of these things are not just valuable on the field, but are carried over into the classroom and do nothing but improve student performance. It’s short sighted to suggest otherwise.
          That said, parents and coaches need to strike a balance and always reinforce that studies are paramount to any athletic endeavors to be sure. Suggesting that playing sports will only provide a student better ability to “shoot a free throw” is, again, incredibly short sighted.
          I would suggest the overall drop in physical activity among youth, increase in video game play, and kids generally not going outside as often to just run around the neighborhood with their friends is a greater detriment to what’s going on in the classroom. Complacency and laziness is contributing to the obesity problem and, I would suggest, the general lack of kids caring about school as well. Sports introduce the opposite of that.
          Sports are not the problem and to try to make a connection between sports and dropping test scores isn’t just a reach, it’s completely incorrect.

          1. Tim

            I disagree. Our best academic students in our HS tend to be our athletes and kids who are INVOLVED in the HS, not just athletics. My XC teams year in and year out receive recognition for distinguished academic achievement. That also goes for the rest of our HS athletics here at Spirit Lake HS.

        3. Jen

          Yes, education is important, but I think you are missing the point here. The article is not saying forget your schooling and focus only on sports. I have 5th & 6th grade girls and they have no recess in school. The need an outlet to let out their stress, the stress of “you must perform well on these tests!” We are making people here & they must be well rounded. I am smart enough to know they will not be scholar athletes, but I also see that being part of different sports have had an educational benefit as well.

        4. Beth

          Wow. I am really shocked with your comment. Clearly there are going to be children that are not interested in organized sports at all, but my experience is more often than not, the child that plays in a positive team environment learns invaluable lessons that go far beyond a particular lesson of use of a technical intellect. My daughter did not have the confidence to even speak in kindergarten as she suffered from social anxiety. After joining sports, she has significantly more confidence and is willing to take more risks in her schoolwork, allow herself to make mistakes as she learns, and works more collaboratively with her school mates and teachers, thus causing her academic improvement to improve. Plus, kids that play sports are more likely statistically to stay off drugs, less likely to drop out, less likely to become pregnant as a teenager, etc. I recruit a great deal for my employer and I always look to those that played sports as well as achieved high GPAs because I know they will work well in a group environment, be less selfish, be a more mature leader, etc. I think your view is very shortsighted as to the skills children need to be successful – it’s not just the topics to learn/memorize in the classroom that will make you successful in life.

          1. highschoolsportsstuff

            Fantastic examples of the type of character traits that we can teach our kids through youth sports! I’ve blogged about this a few times. You can find my thoughts here, and in a few other places around this site. Thank you for your insight!

        5. 12sju12

          I can’t disagree enough. Nowhere in this article are they saying to negate your studies for sports; it’s ONLY related to the athletic aspect of schooling. As for your “free-throw” example, way to compare a simplistic aspect of sports with a highly intricate aspect of education. Participating in sports engages your memory to learn plays, ability to work with others, ability to accept and respond to defeat and/or victory, hard work, dedication, etc., all very, VERY important skills needed in the work place.

          1. highschoolsportsstuff

            This has been true in every district I’ve been in (as a whole, not specific to each individual student). I think that there are two main reasons for this. First, many of our participants are kids who are motivated in every aspect of their lives – including academics. Secondly, the academic eligibility requirements are a great baseline for kids to use as a classroom goal focus. Our kids have to maintain their grades in order to continue participation.

        6. Michael

          I can see where you’re coming from NoSports, but for the sake of healthy discussion and opinion sharing I’ll have to politely disagree. As a student currently attending one of the more prestigious academic institutions of higher learning in this I country, I obviously think education is incredibly important (even if the system is flawed due to the ever-increasing importance of the paper degree, but I digress). However I think there is plenty of room for the two arenas to co-exist. I do not feel as if sports (or other co-curriculars such as band or theater) are insignificant whatsoever. As a dedicated multi-sport, state-bound athlete in high school, sports taught me lessons of dedication, perseverance, commitment, and perhaps most importantly the ability to multi-task. Additionally, they can help provide a healthy distraction from the continuously increasing rigor of classwork for high school students. We definitely do not place TOO much effort on sports (on aggregate, I realize there are schools/districts that may be exceptions).

          Secondly, I’m curious as to what ‘dropping test scores’ you are referring to. Perhaps the only way to evaluate this would be through ACT and SAT test statistics, which would be unreliable seeing as their content has changed and the overall socioeconomic composition of students taking such exams has increasingly ‘evened out’ over the past several decades. I would like to argue that the upcoming generations are no more less-equipped than those before them.

          Thirdly, while I understand that your slope gradient reference was just an example, I think such a comparison is blind to the fact that a ‘free throw’ is not ‘useless’ in contrast to such knowledge. I’m assuming that the ‘free throw’ is synonymous with sports and thus working out/exercise, something that our society is proving to lack far TOO much of.

          In summary, I respect your opinion, but was just looking to voice mine. I think sports are valuable for a vast number of reasons and that they should co-exist. Also, my perspective may be very different as a result of my surroundings while growing up. Bottom line, I think that multi-sport athletes who strive for academic excellence are far more well-rounded than their non-involved counterparts. Regardless, thanks for an interesting read Mark.

        7. professor

          As a college professor I will tell you that my student athletes are consistently the worst students in the room. This is because a) their sports are full time jobs, they are very very busy and they travel and they miss classes etc.
          b) the best athletes have been assisted throughout high school and now in college by tutors and the athletic departments who treat them like babies
          Yes they have high grades which the universities report but the typically don’t earn them.

          As a mom, I feel there is simply too much emphasis on sports from an early age (5, 6, 7?) I agree with the author’s premise, but for a completely different reason. Kids should play multiple sports because it should be fun to be on teams, great exercise etc. I believe that if all the younger sports were less competitive we’d see much higher participation percentages and lower overall obesity etc. I probably played on 1/2 dozen teams from volleyball to basketball etc. I was not great at any sport. Can I play volleyball at a picnic today or basketball in the driveway with my son ? – yes

          1. highschoolsportsstuff

            Thank you for your insight. It’s important to note that I’m not talking about college athletes; I’m speaking of high school and younger youth athletics. Playing at the college level is a whole other animal. I’ve written about those difficulties here and here.
            I understand how this particular post can be interpreted when read singularly. I invite you to browse around my previous posts to see my philosophy on youth sports as a whole. You’ll find that I am very much an advocate for using high school (and younger youth) sports for teaching character traits (see here) and having fun (see here). In fact, I solicit feedback from our athletes at the end of every season that backs up those ideals (see here).
            I think you’ll find that you and I are largely on the same page. Thank you for sharing your experience!

          2. professor

            Hi – thanks for the quick response. I will take some time to read your blog. Nice to read something well written and well thought through for a change. I have never taught high school, but I think that the majority of my students have a similar issue. 99% will never have a career in sports and their studies suffer. The statistics regarding grades etc. from my perspective are falsified or at least, exaggerated. I don’t fault the kids, I don’t think I could handle 7 courses, play varsity sports, have a part time job etc. etc.
            I would like to add that I love my students (the majority) and am the first to dispel everyone’s fears for the future when discussing millennials.

          3. The values we held dear when we had our children (50yrs ago) is not happening in todays world or in most households. Sports are a way a parent lives thru their kids. It takes time – lots of time to be in sports . How many times does a family sit down to dinner together? How often do kids spend time with the grandparents and other family. How often do kids do chores, mow the lawn etc. How often do they have time to learn to play the piano or other inst. How about church and church activities? How about homework thats unrushed? If you have 2 or 3 children and they are all in sports and mom spends her life in the car hauling gear and kids–where is the fun, joy,the relaxation.and nurturing. I live in a very HOT climate where playing baseball butt to butt games is dangerous. The nosebleeds and exhaustion is prevelent– it made me cry to see my grandson out there!! Watching a football practice in those helmets, being taught to hit hard etc etc . See what happens to their knees, their necks, their elbows and YES their heads and brains. WHY and for WHAT???/ Living in a family is a team effort, working for goals in you scholastic achievments is huge. Mowing a neighbors lawn who can not do it themselves is what builds self esteem,Having a job and learning how to save money is a lifelong achievement. Moms DO NOT feel guilty if your child isnt one of those jocks just love um and enjoy them on whatever lever.

          4. highschoolsportsstuff

            Thank you for the comment. I can certainly buy into some of your message (click here), but there are a ton of reasons for kids to stay involved in sports (click here, here, and here). I do agree that we need to allow kids time to be kids, which is why I promote multi-sport participation as opposed to year-round specialization.
            I appreciate your insight!

          5. HS mom

            Agree with this. Our HS is big on “scholar athletes” and favors these kids because they make the school look good when they win championships. Those kids are often getting into prestigous universities (Yale, Duke, Princeton, Colgate, etc) because they play lacrosse and have a high GPA. But the grades for those kids are often inflated!

            The non-athletes (who may excel at a non-school sport or activity) have to work harder to EARN their grades. I saw this first hand when grading for my child – in the same classes- was different than for the athletes. He had to get 95 to get 95. Those kids got 80 and their 80 turned into 95 with extra credit and bonus points.

            My other child is a scholar athlete and gets much better treatment than my brainy kid.

            Needless to say, we changed school districts to one where I felt was a better fit…one that values academics just as much as sports.

          6. Mom, coach, and former D1 athlete

            Guessing you haven’t had very many distance runners in your classroom? Most are very disciplined students and continue to be so in college. I will agree that many of your revenue sport athletes likely have poor academic records. I tutored in the athletes’ study hall in college and saw some frightening things, including students who could not read.

        8. Kellie

          Knowing how to shoot a free-throw is not the sum-total of the advantage of playing a team sport. As a former Mechanical Engineer, now ER/Trauma Registered Nurse I was both a nerd and a jock in high school– so I can speak to a little of both sides. I remember resenting the attention athletes who were otherwise complete idiots getting all the attention and fame at our school. The “nerds” were laughed at and mocked. Of the 300+ kids in my class I was offered more scholarships (both in quantity and dollar amounts) than anyone else in my school —except for a football punter who wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box if you know what I mean. I’ve had my share of rants at how society values the Dennis Rodman’s of the world over the geniuses who bring them smart phones and HDTV. But I am still convinced that now, more than ever, sports and other competitive activities like band, cheerleading, JROTC and drill teams can be critical to the development of a contributing, responsible, adult member of society. In this day of electronic-consumed play-time, feel-good education (no one fails–we can’t let anyone feel bad!), and self-induced isolation from society via increased computer/phone time etc., sports, when coached correctly, more than almost any other school-based activity, teach a child to work as a team, to have a goal, how to take disappointment without becoming suicidal, how to deal with adversity and come through the other side. There is a sport or activity for just about every kid unless they have severe mental or physical challenges. (And even at that there are sports teams for many of these children too!)
          I have three teens and one older child. Maybe one time each in their combined 40+ years of school have I seen one of them so disappointed they cried over an academic or school-club related goal or event that they didn’t succeed at. Most crying from my children over school-related things was from mean and hateful children who had nothing better to do than pick on other kids.
          In sports I have seen my children work themselves to death for a goal, fall just short of achieving it, cry their heart out, then get up and go at it again. They fail, they get upset, the try again. Eventually, when a goal is realized, a win happens or a tournament championship is won the payoff moment comes–and it is SWEET! Rewards given for minimal effort mean just about nothing to a kid. Most things are handed to kids for no effort whatsoever these days. But the reward for hard work, for dedication, for not quitting when the going gets tough–there is NO comparison!
          THIS is what life is about–this cycle of attempt, fail, attempt, less failure, attempt and finally success is one of the MOST IMPORTANT LESSONs anyone can learn about life. Don’t give up the first time failure happens!
          As an ER nurse I have seen other women’s children tragically commit suicide because of their inability to deal with failure. I have determined that my children will not be protected from failure in life. They need to learn the lessons in the microcosm of school, sports etc. while they still have a safety net of family at home. Of course, it kills me to see them disappointed, crying their heart out and I support them as best as possible. I can remember my son battling so hard at his first wrestling match and losing. He was so excited and confident going in and tried so hard. He never gave up battling the whole time and managed to last the three periods. But he lost. He was so upset and near tears but trying to be brave and not cry. Tears were running down my face–not because he lost but because he gave it his all–and still lost. But he survived. He kept trying. He lost every single match that first year. His second year he won one match. His third he won one match each event! This weekend…he dominated! He won every single match he had–and with pins not by points! Do you think this kid will quit when the going gets tough as an adult?? I think not. My oldest son didn’t. He was a straight-A kid who went to Harvard, but also played football for them. Even got signed by the Seattle Seahawks for a year. But then he got released and had to go back to the real world–not devastated by the cut–but thankful for the experience and looking forward to using his college degree. He landed a great job, got married and is doing well.
          Seeing them fail is tough–but I know that in the end it is one of the most crucial lessons they can learn. Any one child may find a different way of having this same experience but I have seen VERY little of that over my years of volunteering at my children’s schools. The vast majority of kids don’t push themselves, their parents don’t force them out of their comfort zones and they just skate by in life until suddenly they are an adult, dealing with their first real tragedy in life and they fall apart. I’ve had college kids tell me they tried to kill themselves because they failed a test or because their boyfriend broke up with them. I’ve had adults kill themselves over a lost job or a divorce. I had a patient last year who’s brother had stabbed him in the chest because he didn’t do the dishes when the brother ask. These guys were in their 50’s…
          I’ve read studies showing that the number one common variable of people who do not end up with drug addiction and/or attempt suicide is a tragedy in their early life. Obviously we can’t say sports is a major tragedy but the effect is the same on a smaller scale.
          So you may ask, why is this important to society as a whole if you don’t have kids or your kids are just fabulous without sports?? Because the children of today are the adults of tomorrow. Like it or not they are the ones who will be making the tough decisions that affect our society, they will be our surgeons, our pastors, our police officers and perhaps most importantly, our future educators of the next generation. If they have not learned how to face adversity and deal with it successfully what kind of leaders will they be?
          Also, team players are in high demand in any industry–just ask managers. I have been in management and on the front line in both of my careers. Nothing like the lone outsider to bring down the department. He/she may be brilliant and have great ideas but if they cause discord among all the employees it is a pain in the butt to deal with and usually not worth it–no matter how brilliant they are! Those who know how to contribute, to be able to be individually creative without hogging all the attention, to be able to compromise, etc. are invaluable.
          Sports and other competitive groups help teach these skills. Overall they give kids a taste of goal setting, hard work, defeat and success in an arena that’s not life or death. Team sports teach kids how to function within a team.
          As a wise man once told me – the kids who are most successful in higher-level wrestling are the ones who lost a lot early on. Sure, they know how to win now. But they also know how to come back from defeat, to persevere. In high school and then in college they WILL meet someone who can beat them. How they deal with that is crucial. He said that the kids who have never done anything but win fall apart at the first loss and sometimes never recover! I posit that the exact same idea holds true in life.
          So yes, knowing how to throw a free-throw is going to be of minuscule value to the vast majority of adults in society. But knowing how to practice every day to perfect that free-throw, how to collaborate with others on the team towards the state championship, to compete, to win and especially to fail will be of utmost importance to the vast majority of adults! Much more so than calculating a slope-gradient.

        9. J Shaffer

          NoSports-I beg to differ. My daughter and son both played competitive sports in school, son is in 8th now and has carried straight A’s through all 9 grades, is in the gifted program and in the highest level of classes-all while competing in both basketball and soccer. My daughter played on a nationally ranked rugby team through high school, played soccer, softball and basketball and now maintains a 4.0 in college in statistics and was granted a fellowship to work for the summer in DC. Almost all of the girls from her team have went on to college and are excelling. Most student athletes I know far surpass their non athletic counterparts in academics. It creates a well rounded student who knows how to work as a team, knows how to work hard to achieve goals and knows success AND failure. I do not know any “dumb jocks”.

        10. No Math

          I’ll actually firmly disagree with you. Your health and nutrition are important your entire life. Academics are also important, but your example of calculating slope gradient is hysterical! I have never not once used that since high school. You tried to embolden your academics over athletics argument by choosing one of the most useless pieces of academics you will learn lol.

        11. HMBGeek

          Except when you apply to a college, they don’t want only your academic record, they want to know ALL that you do. It is unfortunate how college forces us to narrow our interests to primary involvement in one area. In high school I played two varsity sports, was a photographer for the yearbook, participated in band, choir, and theater, and in the top ten of my class. In fact, I believe all of us in the top ten were in a mixture of sports, music, art, and other extracurriculars, or they volunteered somewhere. None of us focused solely on academics.

          Now I’m a member of a Big Ten marching band, and I love it because I came here knowing no one, but I immediately had a band family of over 250 people. There is a community in extracurricular activities that you can’t get from good grades, and an excellent way to relieve the pressure from school.

          And let’s not forget, standardized tests in high schools are just a small portion of what a true intelligence test is. There are different ways to be smart. I’m relatively book smart, but if my car breaks down I don’t know how to fix that. There are people who are good with cars, or amazing artists, or have some other awesome technical skill, but they suck at test-taking. One of my roommates had a 4.0 in high school and scored a 21 on her ACT because of test anxiety. There are also other professions besides math and sciences. Just because things like liberal arts are not on standardized tests and are not as high-paying as a doctor or something does not mean those things are not important, and the same goes for sports. Cutting the arts and sports programs from high schools is detrimental to students’ performances overall because it becomes all too easy to burnout from schoolwork.

        12. Cherie Witt

          I agree education comes first, but balance in life is the key. As a 50 year old teacher, cross-country, track coach who also does open water swims, triathlons and trail runs I am far more valuable and cost effective than an overweight depressed 50 year old who doesn’t know how to balance work, exercise, and family. Athletic people are cheaper to employ because their health care costs are less and they tend to be happier and more productive. btw, I have a daughter who ran 5:06 in the mile as a freshman and she swims in the winter and summer. Everyone knows that multi sport athletes are less prone to injuries.

        13. tracey

          students athletes with a gpa of 3.5 or higher and playing multiple sports is the way to go. if you are keeping up with that, then you know a person is dedicated and can adapt to change.

        14. Scott

          Regarding academics and athletics; it is not an “either-or” proposition. Academic excellence and athletic participation are not mutually exclusive! My own two sons earned academic scholarships which paid for practically all their college tuition and room/board. Each was also an all-state football player. Athletics taught them the importance of perseverance, teamwork, and discipline which have served them well in their careers. Oh, and the concept of slope and its application to various disciplines they learned in their math classes. Its a slippery slope you are pursuing, sir.

          1. highschoolsportsstuff

            Thanks for the insight. I speak candidly about this as well. I was fortunate enough to play four sports in college, which earned me the grand total of $500 over the course of 4 years. My tuition, however, was mostly paid for by an academic scholarship during that time period. I’m with you 100% on this!

        15. Barb

          First and foremost I am a teacher and a parent of four children. I strongly disagree with the idea that sports are insignificant. Yes our job is to educate our children however our job is to also prepare them for their life ahead. For some children school is a struggle and sports are an area where they feel success and passion. There are many forms of intelligence and learning – kinesthetic (movement) being one of them. Besides this, when children are involved in any kind of sport or team activity the skills that they learn are too numerous to mention but far too beneficial to ignore!

        16. judi

          Many high school graduates graduated because of the sport that kept them in school and drove them to stay eligible with good grades. Period. End of story.

        17. Student-Athletes

          I will assume, based on your position on this topic, that you did not play sports in high school, but you were an excellent student, top notch I’m sure. To be that student you had to spend most of your waking hours studying and glued to your books, giving up extracurricular activities. Extracurricular activities that build other life skills. Extreme, but a good extreme. Although, in my experience, these students are at risk of not building certain social skills because of their extreme.

          Then you have the athlete that spends their every waking hour thinking about sports. To the point they sacrifice their education and other activities that build other life skills. In my experience, these students are at risk of not becoming productive citizens of a community.

          Then you have the student-athlete. The one that finds the way to manage a commitment to education and a commitment to sport. All the while building lifelong skills from the experiences from both. In my experience, these student-athletes are socially balanced members of the community.

          I have personal experience with top notch athletes that are also 4.0 students (or higher with weighted grades). It can be done.

        18. Karl Koonce

          Study after study shows that a student can concentrate on studies better when accompanied by daily exercise. Just because someone emphasizes sports does not mean that they are not interested in academics. I have been coaching for 41.5 years and I teach upper level classes in high school. I get fed up with people commenting that academics should come first and then sports. There is simply time for both. When a student is in class he/she should do that classwork and when they are in physical education or athletics they should be doing that activity. Students should learn to balance things in their lives. If more students would incorporate physical activities like sports provide in their lives, perhaps we wouldn’t have such a large percent of the American population so obese and in general poor health. I also agree that athletes should be involved in more sports if they are capable of doing them. I am sure college coaches are aware enough to realize that students who can compete on more than one sport for his/her high school team is more than likely a better athlete.

        19. Jake

          It’s too bad you failed to educate yourself before answering the question. If you would have done some reading, you would have found that children who are physically active learn better in the classroom. You would have also learned that the skills learned through sport participation can not be learned in the classroom. Life skills that include leadership, cooperation, team work, work ethic, time management, discipline, and perseverance are some of the important things children learn through sport. Sport is also a major reason that racism has been in decline since the 1960’s. Children of all races meet, and become team mates and friends through sport participation. These interactions have been key in improving race relations in our world. If you are friend with people of a certain race other than your own, how can you be racist? Your comment is proof that a person can be educated in the classroom, but remain ignorant of the ways of the world.

        20. charles monfort

          Quite honestly the life lessons a child learns from an activity in a club are at least just as important. Social skills are huge in the development of a child. It would be nice to learn how to do a slope gradient, if your going to be surveyor but don’t leave out confidence or social skills as part of their development.

        21. PE 1

          As a physical education teacher – and a former and future volleyball coach, I learned from a D1 champion volleyball coach that all sports are math and science. Geometry, laws of physics, and even geography. I use key terminology of those areas every day in my teaching. I, as a PE teacher and coach can help re-enforce core curriculum standards. So, it is a narrow perspective/imagination to say that a free throw can not help a student learn math or science…it can and does.

        22. Alfatango1

          I am an NCAA official who works primarily with D2 schools on the west coast. The athletes I work with do not get athletic scholarships, they are all walk on athletes. These students will be our future doctors, scientist and software engineers yet they train and compete at a very high level at sports to be well rounded citizens. They will not most likely ever make the Olympic team or a processional league but they will make everything and everyone around them better for having competed in sports.

        23. Coach Shadley

          Sports teach so much more then just shooting a free throw. It teaches all the things that make you a good employee. More importantly it teaches to be active for good health. Doesn’t matter how many test you can score high on if you don’t have your good health.

        24. Someone that would say that sports are insignificant, either is very ignorant of what happens in a good program, or is bitter about always being picked last. The discipline and work ethic learned is for many transferred into a work ethic. Many successful businessmen and women have told me they learned more that helped them in business on the field, court, pool, mat, or track than in most of their coursework.

        25. SH

          Learning how to communicate with teammates (co-workers) and being able to handle criticism from coaches (bosses/authority figures) and knowing how to handle adversity when losing a game (real world is tough) are more valuable than learning how to calculate slope gradient.

      2. JM

        Thanks for your article! I agree it’s better to switch up sports seasonally rather than continue one sport all year long. My kids have done it both ways and it really helps the body AND mind to play multiple sports. The only time one of my kids tired of a sport and quit was after 2-3 years of travel soccer, which has now become a year-long sport. He was exhausted and bored of always doing the same thing, and upset that it left no time for other sports he wanted to try. Now he happily plays for his school basketball team, and plays summer baseball. Is he going pro in either sport? Why, no, he isn’t. But he’s getting physical activity and learning so much about teamwork and hard work.

        I do think our whole parenting culture has become as much about parents living through their kids as it is about the kids themselves. Yes, I was guilty as anyone at first, but I learned that it HAS to be the kid leading the way. You can force your kid to try out and join a sport, but HE/SHE has to want it, or it’s pointless. That’s why coaches want multi-sport athletes; if an athlete succeeds in more than one sport, it suggests the child is athletically gifted and competitive. Not just that the parents dumped bucket loads of $$ into one sport.

        1. highschoolsportsstuff

          That’s a pretty healthy attitude for a parent to have; I love to hear it! You may enjoy reading this post from my blog a while back. That said, I’m also a believer that we, in athletics, have created this culture ourselves. As the parent of young boys just beginning to get into the ages of travel teams, I completely understand the issues facing our parents. It won’t be a quick fix, but spreading the message one person at a time is a good start. Thank you for sharing your experience!

      3. Sports Mom

        It all comes down to needing a healthy balance between the sports and education. I believe our school system is WAY too lenient with our athletes when it comes to grades. If a student is flunking a class or missing several homework assignments or has unfulfilled detention, then they should not be allowed to attend sports or other extracurricular activities. If the school system had these rules strictly enforced, I believe kids would better learn that school is a priority over extracurricular activities.

        One big problem besides the school not enforcing it is the parents who yell at the coach who didn’t let their kid practice because he/she has bad grades. Coaches…please dismiss my child from practice if his grades aren’t up to par. I want them to be held accountable for their actions, and I won’t get mad at you for enforcing that.

        While sports are a privilege in a sense, I also firmly believe every child should partake in some form of extracurricular activity. My parents didn’t put me in sports because they “weren’t necessary” but, as a 5th grader, not even knowing I was a fast runner, I was invited by a friend to a track meet. Low and behold, I took 1st place in 4 events. Seven years later, it earned me a full-ride scholarship to a college. However, the scholarship was also dependent on my GPA remaining at a 3.5 or higher. I wanted to run track, so it was my motivation to keep my grades up.

        Not to mention, sports bring with them knowledge of health and fitness, habits that they may carry throughout life. I know what my kids want to do in the off season, and it usually involves video games, junk food, and gaining weight. However, knowing that they are only 2 months away from the next sports season, it motivates them to stay in shape and healthy, even if it means stepping away from their electronic devices for a 20-minute treadmill run each day or a bike ride.

        So, to those of you who think sports/extracurriculars are so insignificant in life, you are wrong, wrong, wrong. I have 3 boys, all in sports, music, etc. They have something to be passionate about and it drives them to do well in school. Kids must learn how to win and how to lose. They need to learn to work with a team. They need to find their talent, somewhere that they feel important or successful, and that isn’t always in a classroom.

        1. highschoolsportsstuff

          Great examples!
          The academic piece tends to be an issues of local control. The North Dakota HSAA sets a minimum academic standard to be able to participate in competitions, and many individual schools set their standards higher than the NDHSAA requirements. At the school level, I’ve been fortunate enough to be in three districts where, for the most part, teachers held athletes as accountable for grades as other students…maybe even more so.
          Athletics and activities have been a very formative experience in my life (as well as my siblings), and I hope to pass that down to my boys. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    2. Lynette Burris

      Good grief. Let’s not limit the activities to sports. An athlete can learn much about discipline, focus, bonding, working together for a common goal, communication skills, competition, etc. with arts activities as well – dance, singing, playing an instrument, theater. Let’s encourage our athletes to develop themselves as well rounded individuals, not just well-rounded athletes.

        1. Edd

          Amen on the ALL Activities. I’m a retired teacher with 40 years experience. A little over 10 years ago I did an analysis of students that were involved in my discipline (music) as opposed to those NOT involved in anything. My students, that is students involved in music had average scores higher than those non-involved students. Our school was a small school with many students involved in multiple activities, What really impressed me about those students was that we DIDN’T have the valedictorian in our organization for most of the 11 years I taught in that school but (in some cases) quite the opposite. My point is this. A ‘well rounded’ education should INCLUDE activities BEYOND the classroom in order to ‘educate’ the student. (We need to) Stop ‘teaching’ kids and start ‘educating’ young people.

    3. bret

      If you take track out of the “multi-sport” players, Im willing to bet the number drops by half. And the 5 that are only “football” athletes are either O-line or D tackles who are putting on serious mass to be able to play on the college level

      1. highschoolsportsstuff

        Probably, but the point of adding the chart wasn’t to focus on the chart. I just needed a catalyst to start the conversation. The athletes that Urban is recruiting aren’t the athletes that the majority of us are working with. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

    4. Jim Rose

      I suppose Coach Hays that’s good, but the reality here is that most kids are not going to play big time college football, so there isn’t a lot of harm done. However with kids that play at the highest levels the body needs time to rest.

      I’ve seen too many coaches ruin kids’ potential by year round travel baseball, tearing up arms, throwing fastballs 100 times a game every 3 days at age 16-18.

      1. Karl Koonce

        That is why they should switch sports and play something else for a while instead of throwing their arm out doing the same sport all year long.

    5. I overall love this premise..and No Sports this article isn’t saying education isn’t less important than sports…I think you’ve interpreted it incorrectly. Maybe I’m biased because I have three sport kids and this is what us three sport kid families like to hear….because it is hard to have a kid tryout for a sport with other kids who are that one sport kid and hard to see them end up with less playing time due to less time invested in that sport. However, the value of being on a team, the friendships made the mental toughness that playing and or sitting on the bench teaches is all invaluable! Yes, I even said the “sitting the bench” teaches life lessons. So why take what they love from them for a chance they’d get that scholarship just to specialize in one sport? I like the chart very much and the article! Thank you

    6. I only hope you are changing the minds of one sport advocates. I have noticed no one has stepped up to support their thinking. I believe I have read almost all comments.

      1. highschoolsportsstuff

        There have been a few with some pointed examples, but I think that most are on board with the idea. Getting it to work in practice is a whole other ballgame! The most we can do is to keep pushing the idea. Thank you for the support!

    7. Jim Peterson

      I completely agree…. problem is the focus by coaches to play one sport all year. Some high school coaches tell you that you need to play the club sport in the off season or you won’t get a good look next year. I’m not saying all do this.. but I sure would like to see this change.

      1. highschoolsportsstuff

        That’s where half of my focus is, too. I try to address our coaches when I hear about stuff like that, and I try to educate the parents/kids when I can, as well. In each case, I’m hoping that I’m catching at least either the coach or the kid/parent in order to have a good conversation.

  2. Eric Polries

    Great article, Mark! One of the best you have posted! I was a one sport varsity athlete in high school (distance running in track and cross country)…I won’t count getting cut from basketball in 10th grade as a varsity sport. I feel by the time I got done competing in college I was burnt out. My biggest regret from high school was not going out for wrestling, despite the daily conversations our wrestling coach had with me. I am encouraging my own kids to do multiple sports. My own son has tried hockey, baseball, soccer, lacrosse, swimming, and a little track. I have purposely kept him away from running, even though he is chomping at the bit to do it, just to keep him hungry for it, as it will likely be his strongest sport. Keep it fun and interesting for the youngsters!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Fantastic! I think the majority of our coaches in Grand Forks have done a good job of getting their own kids involved in multiple sports. I enjoy seeing our coaches being parents at different events. I’m glad to see that you’re working the same schedule with your kids. Thanks for the comments, Coach Polries!

  3. Judi Mundy

    Can’t wait to show this to my nephew who is in high school. He’s excelling at football and last spring, he made the lacrosse team but didn’t see as much playing time as he did with football. Now he’s debating whether to continue with lacrosse. I’ve told him how I thought his cross training improved his football game…now I can back it up with your article! Thank you!

    1. Haden

      Lacrosse/football are excellent crossover sports! Spring lacrosse has contact, conditioning, and hand eye coordination, not to mention just being outside playing after the long cold winter. One of the greatest football players of all time was recruited to play lacrosse at Syracuse U, NOT football, his name, Jim Brown.

    2. highschoolsportsstuff

      You’re very welcome. I’d advocate for not only the cross training portion of his second sport, but also the character traits learned through being a role player. That’s the kind of knowledge he’ll need in the adult world once he starts at his “real” job. Thank you for the feedback.

      1. Tim Kerr

        I completely agree with your point regarding differing roles in differing sports. As a high school football coach I find that many of the problems that arise come from parents that are not willing to see their child in a “lesser” support role. These support roles, if you even want to call them that, are just as important as the “star” roles. As adults we all take turns being in the lead role and the support role at times in our careers, places we volunteer etc.. Thanks for bringing this out. Very insightful article with valuable information.

        1. highschoolsportsstuff

          Much appreciated! And, yes, almost all of us find ourselves in role player positions at work…definitely a valuable lesson to learn early.

  4. Joe Garcia

    Yes I agree but parents are so caught up with there kids falling behind in the sport they are best in.Afraid other kids going to pass them by.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I 100% agree! I wrote a post about this a little while back (find it here). In my opinion, one of the biggest issues we have in youth sports right now is that parents tend to view the performance of their kids as a reflection of their ability to parent. Unfortunately, kids tend to learn the dynamics of their team long before their parents are comfortable with it. Great comment!

      1. Student Athletes in that order

        A very beneficial convo about the role of athletics in developing the necessary skills for a well-balanced student athlete, but the context provided – a quote by Urban Meyer – is somewhat troubling. Is he is the best role-model for the majority of student athletes and coaches on the scholastic and collegiate level given his track record at Florida and the academic profile of his recruiting classes?
        In fact, he may be the best representative of the college football running amok. These D1 football players are completely divorced from the experience of most student athletes and their affiliation with institutions of higher learning does not align with their mission or espoused values.
        Right message, wrong messenger.

        1. highschoolsportsstuff

          Some of the character issues aside, I’ll agree that the type of athlete Coach Meyer recruits doesn’t fit the profile of the kids we usually deal with. I used the chart simply as a catalyst for the conversation because the chart had been making the rounds on Twitter, etc. It was something that was recognizable and in the immediate news. My intent wasn’t to suggest that Coach Meyer’s program, or the kids he recruits, is what most of us experience. Quite the opposite, actually…we’re trying to promote well rounded athletes and kids in our educational based programs.
          Thank you for your comments!

  5. Lewis Lassetter

    As a high school coach for over 30 years I highly recommend that student/athletes be multi sport athletes. With academic demands and long seasons it is difficult for most athletes to play 3 sports, but most can do 2 during a school year. I used to be a 3 sport athlete and I have coached Football, Boys & Girls Basketball, Track & Field. Baseball and Boy’s Golf throughout my career. I love each sport for what it offerrs. We need to stop this specialization sooner than later.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Thank you for the comment. In North Dakota, our seasons are scheduled to avoid overlap (with a couple exceptions that last a week), but you’re correct. Most of our 3 sport athletes hang up one pair of shoes on Saturday then grab the next pair for Monday’s practice. I think there are pros and cons to that, but you are absolutely correct in saying that our 3 sport kids are on the move pretty much non-stop all year.

  6. Melanie Sullivan

    Please, please spread this message far and wide. My daughter finally had enough courage to defy the coaches and walk away from a running program that was running her into the ground. After two severe stress fractures in three years, hip and shin, she quit her senior year. She picked up water polo and plans to swim in the spring. She still runs three to four times a week because she “just likes to run” and loves to lift weights. The pressure put on these kids is tremendous. It is stealing the joy of sports from them! Our coaches need to be educated!!!! (from a former three sport high school athlete)

    1. JR

      Highschool football for most athletes in Texas is a 12 month x 4 years journey. Kids play other sports in addition to what the football coach wants them to do before and after school. Some of those things are not “technically” a requirement but if you want coaches to pay attention to you, you have to do the ropes.

    2. highschoolsportsstuff

      That’s a great example! In a future post, I’ll talk about the physical damage of specialization, but you’ve listed an excellent personal example of this. I’m glad that your daughter was able to find another sport that offered lower impact to her legs, and it appears that she’s found another sport (or two) to enjoy. That example, alone, can make a difference with another kid or two in your own community.

  7. Never really thought about multi-sport athletes that much until recently. Your article sums it up perfectly. As a sports photographer I noticed most of the athletes who participate in sports all three seasons are typically trying to keep in shape for their main sport while staying with their routine. I have no proven statistics, but I’m willing to bet those who are active in sports all three seasons perform at a higher level academically compared to one season sports athletes. “The Routine” seems to work for most students. Great article and something parents should consider.

    1. Denise

      You would be correct with the academic correlation. I devoted my whole masters thesis on the mere fact that student-athletes get better grades then their non-athlete counterparts. The research showed my observations based on hundreds of swim kids over 12 years would prove correct.

      1. Denise

        I also coached swimmers for 9 years at various levels and my younger age group kids, I not only designed my program so kids could do other sports or activities like scouting, music or church activities, I highly encouraged it. My girls were “forced” do so something different then swim every spring. They took of road races and loved it at 9 but until then it was dance, t-ball, soccer, track. so they ended up swimming and cross country and track in middle school. It was a great decision because my one daughter is a runner in college because her dream school does not even have a pool on campus. (she is going through water withdraw) but loves her CC/track team. If she had not picked up distance running she would not have gone to her dream school or not be doing any sport. Sports teach our kids all kind of lessons and besides life long friendships from many regions, it taught that they can’t be the best at every sport so they had to accept defeat gracefully and with sportsmanship and respect to the other team and/or work to improve in the non dominate sport. Hard work and persistence are valuable lessons.

    2. highschoolsportsstuff

      You are correct on both points. I could run the data and show you statistically that the athletes in our schools tend to be higher achievers academically. (In all fairness, I don’t necessarily believe that being in athletics relates directly to higher grades; I believe it has more to do with the type of kid who tends to participate in activities.) I also do post-season student surveys where the kids are very open about saying that they are in some sports to stay in shape for others (found here). In my district, I have quite a few hockey kids who play soccer as a conditioning activity.
      Thank you for your insight!

  8. True for team/ball sports. It’s a little different for individual sports like diving, skating, gymnastics, etc. Especially due to the age and skill specialization. Thoughts?

    1. JR

      How much can you improve your skills while developing your body through growth in a year. You can only develop what your body has to develop.

    2. Nancy B

      I don’t believe it is different for individualized sports, in fact, I think cross-training is essential due to the high risk of overuse injuries in the sports you cited. In addition, although there is a team aspect to some individualized sports, the benefits of contributing and functioning in a true team sport develops skills beyond the physical.

    3. highschoolsportsstuff

      Yeah, I understand where you’re coming from. My opinion – I think it’s the exact same as team sports. Kids working on diving/gymnastics/tennis skills year round aren’t any different from kids working on throwing footballs/baseball, shooting basketballs/soccer balls, etc. year round. I think there are some very positive character and leadership traits that are learned through team sports that are important to kids who participate in individual sports. I also believe there are very important traits learned through individual sports that would greatly benefit many kids in team sports.
      In a nut shell, I believe the same sentiment applies. Ultimately, I would ask the reasons for any kid – whether team based or individual based – to play only one sport. If it’s because the kid only enjoys one sport or wants to do other stuff, then let him/her enjoy the one sport (with breaks, of course!). If it’s because the kid, whether through his/her own ideals or being pushed in that direction by others, believes that the only way to succeed is to devote year round attention to one sport, that’s where problems occur.
      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

      1. Gymnastics mom

        My personal opinion is that the strength, flexibility, and complexity of skills needed for a gymnast/diver/skater to be successful, even at just the high school level, is so extreme, that even taking a month off is detrimental. My own daughter took off a month for back issues, and it took months for her to return to the level she was before the break. The level at which these types of athletes are expected to perform is so high. And for females, the peak of their sport may come at an extremely young age, where males in these sports can literally start the sport in their teens and progress to Olympic levels. This is virtually unheard of in girls. Instead, they give up much of their childhoods, their families’ down time and finances to pursue the nearly statistically impossible task of competing at a regional or national level, or making the elusive level 10 that is required for college competition. Heck, colleges are now recruiting former elite gymnasts (that’s Olympic level for those not familiar).

        All that said, I wholeheartedly support students pursing multiple sports or other activities such as the arts, music, dance, etc. to have fun. I agree with the entire spirit of the article. I just think until we get these individual sports coaches on board, we’ll see no change at all in the current one-sport world for these particular sports.

        1. highschoolsportsstuff

          I agree that getting the coaches on board is a huge piece of this. I try to have this discussion with my coaches as often as possible. I think we’re doing a good job overall, but I know we’re still missing a few.
          I understand the argument regarding specialization as it relates to improved skill level, but I also think it’s important that kids and parents understand that the extra time through specialization isn’t a guarantee of anything down the road. One of the things I try to be open and honest with all kids and parents about is how rare it is for kids to move on to the next level in any sport.
          Thank you for your insight and experience!

  9. kathy harris

    As a former girls basketball coach, I agree wholeheartedly with these sentiments. The obvious problem is how many coaches are willing to share their top athletes? It takes cooperation between programs for high school athletes to be able to compete in more than one sport especially in a smaller high school such as mine. Unfortunately, that is not often the case.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Bingo! This is a huge education piece that needs to be from the top down. Many coaches, understandably, have tunnel vision when it comes to their programs. I spend time with our coaches discussing and encouraging multi-sport participation and setting up off-season activities that don’t conflict with other activities. I believe that we try hard to not touch in-season kids with any out-of-season sports, and most of my coaches are really good about working together on coordinating summer stuff. *Most* of them…like everywhere else, we still have some room to grow.

  10. cindy costa

    Really unfair to athletes who are only able to play one sport, due to several previous concussions, my son is unable to be cleared for football. Also, not all athletes have the ability to play more than 1 sport, my son couldn’t drive a golf ball to save his life, but he can hit a baseball a ton.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I’m speaking in generalities, not specifics. Much like your example, I had an athlete a few years back that because of medical reasons was only comfortable playing baseball. I certainly wouldn’t have pushed him into other sports even if he wanted to. My intent is simply to show the benefits of participating in multiple sports, not to suggest that everyone has to do it.
      Thank you for sharing your experience!

  11. Jan Leatherman

    I am 62. When I was in junior high and played basketball, I was the rover who was the only one allowed to play full court.

    I was in college when Title IX was instituted. I had no athletic scholarships. I graduated from Washington State University with a B. S. In PE. Whe there I played field hockey, basketball and ran track.

    I loved being active and the discipline and sportsmanship I learned was superb.

    Love your article!

  12. Harry Marra

    Great article. Kids become more elite in their speciality later in life with a broad based experience in many other sport activites during their youth. Harry Marra, Coach of World Record holder & 2012 London Olympic Decathlon Gold Medalist.

  13. Bo De Forest

    I will share with all my athletes. Nothing worse than an athlete that only plays a sport or two. I feel it is disrespectful to the other athletes that help them. You see a lot of kids start one sport too early and hate it by high school as well. I tell my son, you may not like basketball, baseball, or wrestling as much as football but you need kids who love other sports to help you so you have to help them. I would like to hear your thoughts on summer leagues it feels like with all the “off season” leagues that kids don’t get the opportunity to be a kid or get a job. I feel they are sucking the fun out of sports and the results are actually less wins. In Oregon this year (and I know that we aren’t a national power house) 1a 2a 3a 5a football championships in football were all from the east side. Rancher families, no Saturday practice, and limited off season activities. Coincidence? I think not.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Ugh…the summer is the most difficult conflict for me (and for most parents/coaches/athletes!). Summer is a three month block of what appears to be open time that coaches and parents are drooling over, thinking about all of the ways that athletes can use this time to get better. Then, the poor kid has people who want him/her to go to six different camps, summer leagues, in-house camps, etc. etc. etc. On top of that, mom and dad are trying to find just three days for a family vacation, many kids would like the opportunity to have a job, and at some point, kids need to hang out with their friends.
      My personal opinion – I wouldn’t mind seeing a portion of the summer “blacked out” for contact with high school students. I certainly get the problem with this, though. While I would be fine with kids just hitting the weight room in the summer, there will always be the pressure to use that time to keep improving, keep improving, keep improving. (I’ll admit to another personal conflict since I love baseball, too. I like seeing kids playing baseball and softball in the summers…I realize I’m being hypocritical with that statement, though.)
      Ultimately, here’s what I would like to see happen. Let the KIDS decide to do whatever they find fun. I’ve coaching kids that liked going to camps and leagues all summer long, and I’ve coached kids who wanted to work and fish all summer long. I don’t see anything wrong with either of those. The problem is when coaches or parents are either requiring or pseudo-requiring kids to attend these activities. That’s a lot of pressure on teenagers.
      Thank you for the reply, and thank you for sharing my thoughts with your athletes!

  14. Richard Faulkner

    i would Ben add that athletes that challenge themselves in other activities (band, choir, drama, student government etc) develop other aspects of their character that they can then bring as leaders and teammates.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Fantastic. I grew up in the tiny little town where all of us were multi-sport athletes and were in band, choir, drama, speech, yearbook, newspaper, etc. In most schools now, even the really little ones, it’s difficult to do all of those activities. However, you’re absolutely correct that doing some of those will reinforce character skills – and many of them will be slightly out of the comfort zone of many athletes.
      Thank you for the comment!

    2. Nancy B

      I absolutely agree. We are in a small school district, and I feel very fortunate that my son is a three-sport athlete, competes in trap-shooting, performs in the musicals, is in 4H and FFA, and is extracurricular jazz band, and a competitive a Capella group.As his parents we have not pushed any of this on him. He has chosen it himself. He makes the B or A honor roll regularly and is a junior taking AP Calculus.

      1. highschoolsportsstuff

        That’s fantastic. I also grew up in a small community with a tiny high school and had the opportunity to participate in many activities. He’ll find that being involved in all of that will be a great experience for him moving forward. Thank you for sharing!

  15. Sam Antonaras

    I’m grateful that my son’s high school baseball coaches were not only accommodating to him and some of his teammates who wanted to play another sport but encouraging as well. My son played water polo as a secondary sport. He had to miss some summer and fall ball but the benefits gained from the training for and playing water polo were tremendous. As a catcher, the core and leg strength he gained really helped his movement behind the plate. His stamina also improved which allowed him to easily handle the rigors of catching. There was no question that some of the best ball players on his teams were multi-sport athletes. One thing not mentioned that was evident to me and my son was that the personality types differed from sport to sport which also enhanced his high school athletic experience.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I really like your comment about the different personalities. My current community is a hockey crazy town – from 5 year olds up to one of the best NCAA hockey programs in the nation. People around here just love hockey, but we see that “hockey mentality” in our kids on a daily basis. I speak to people constantly who refer to our hockey programs here as little “cults.” While I don’t necessarily agree with the cult comments, I understand what people are talking about. From early elementary, our hockey kids tend to travel in little packs with their matching team travel sweats. At the high school level, it’s been fun for me to see our hockey kids (and other sports – I don’t want to suggest that this is strictly a hockey problem) interacting with groups of kids outside their hockey packs. And, multiple interaction with multiple personalities seems an awful lot like a typical job environment, right?
      Thanks for the comment!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I see there are other comments on the board today that specifically mention Texas, too. Having never worked in Texas and spent only very limited time speaking to colleagues from Texas, it’s difficult for me to comment on that mentality outside of the well-known “Texas is football crazy” stereotype. I know that many schools use their head football coach to serve as the school’s athletic director, also. In this scenario, whose job is it to keep the football coach on point? But I don’t want to pin the blame on that hiring practice either, since many communities/schools will fire coaches who aren’t winning. Unfortunately, that problem is much more deeply rooted than could be solved with multi-sport participation. Those changes – if they can be made – would have to happen one kid at a time…very difficult situation.

  16. laughable in Texas

    I find this hilarious as a former soccer coach in TX, considering most fb coaches I know do not release fb players to their other sports. I had kids lifting weights on game days and playing like they were baby elephants learning to walk. It was incredibly unhealthy and unfair. Instead of being allowed to join my program’s class period, they had to stay in fb class (in TX, we have athletic periods) so they missed a large portion of our practices and planning. The reasoning for this was hilarious, as it was a complete one-way street. The lack of logic defied me, and I’m a Math teacher. I also found out our beloved head fb coach/AD was telling kids not to play (every year from multiple fb players who really wanted to come out). The coach denies it, of course, but his attitude quickly changes when I call him out. You wanna know why most of the kids play only one sport? The coaches involved. Get rid of those morons, and do what is best for the kids (especially since it is only high school sports and they should be having fun and playing with their friends while working hard and trying to win it all), and I think we will see a real rise in both athletics and academics. I say this because I have also noticed those same types of coaches very rarely seem to look after their player’s grades, and I’m pretty sure that’s what they are there for first. STUDENT-athlete.

    PS – I know not all fb coaches are evil, but I can honestly say that the majority of the ones pushing kids to play one sport (oh, and they HAVE to run track in the spring if they are not playing basketball or another sport) are fb coaches. Sad, but true.

    1. Jay

      Bingo…The FB coaches preach Weight room after football season ends (bye bye basketball) and MAYBE track in the spring if they are a skill position (WR, RB, DB) They want their lineman getting bigger and stronger all off-season. They preach “share the athletes” if it is a kid THEY want who isn’t playing football…Then once they get then in pads they tell him if he lifted year round he can get a football scholarship thus pressuring him to quit whatever other sport he plays.

      I think that baseball and basketball players are under a lot of pressure to stick with 1 sport due to the skill level required to excel and get scholarship opportunities. If my son wants a basketball scholarship he can’t afford to take August-November off to play football and miss his entire pre-season with the basketball team. Thats a 4 month break that will set him back unless he is such an elite talent in the top2% it doesn’t matter.

      Same for baseball. If baseball player plays basketball they miss the entire pre-season to work on hitting and strengthening their arms.

      The Overlap from sport to sport is what kills the multi-sport athletes that don’t want to fall behind in the sport that is their favorite.
      Football coaches are the worst though…It’s give and take…They want everyone to give and then they take 100% of the kids time.

      1. highschoolsportsstuff

        The piece that needs to be educated is the likelihood of earning an athletic scholarship (see those stats here). Often, it’s difficult to convince coaches of these numbers, so we try to get these statistics in the hands of our kids and their parents. The more we can educate parents and kids on the difficulties of earning an athletic scholarship (and how the single biggest indicator of higher level talent is genetic), the more diverse those kids are open to being in high school. Rather than chasing down a tiny chance at earning an athletic scholarship, we should be encouraging our kids to learn and develop in a healthy, positive manner.
        I appreciate your comment about the necessary skill level needed for baseball and basketball players; this is true for all sports. However, early specialization in an attempt to build a superior skill level often leads to burn out and injury (I’ll blog about that in a couple weeks). More so than that, the number of kids earning scholarships is far less than the number of kids specializing, meaning that the majority of our kids have specialized for nothing other than their high school playing careers in one sport.
        I appreciate your comments. The more we can spread the message, the more we can change the culture a little bit at a time.

    2. with you in ga

      Don’t forget to add that the “requirement” to run track that the football coaches put on the football kids correlates with those same coaces serving as track coaches. There is also a level of self-interest (success in track) and the opportunity to smuggle in some addtional football training out of season.

      You’re absolutely right that the phenomenon is more coach driven than parent driven.

    3. highschoolsportsstuff

      I think I touched base on some of this in my reply to the previous post. I agree that the coaches involved are a large part of the problem. Kids will do what the adults in their lives are encouraging, especially coaches. As an athletic director, I pass along a very pointed direction for our department’s goals (find those here). I try to reinforce those goals by not talking about winning and losing with my coaches during our pre and post season discussions. The discussion I’d have with a football coach who finished 14-0 will have the same talking points as the discussion I’d have with a football coach who went 0-9. I want to know if our kids had fun, learned how to compete, and learned something about the sport. I will concede that football in North Dakota is NOT at all like football in Texas, but hockey in North Dakota – especially in Grand Forks, North Dakota – is pretty similar to football in Texas. Both of our high school programs are very successful (in terms of wins/losses), and many of our kids are multiple sport athletes. One of the great benefits that we have here is that the head coach of the university hockey team is a proponent of multi-sport athletes, as are many of the people in charge of running the youth hockey program. That’s the type of adult leadership that needs to trickle down.
      Thank you for the comment. I agree with your philosophy – just keep pushing for change!

  17. bobbyo

    i agree. A problem that sometimes comes up is when coaches won’t work with each other allowing players time to play different sports. Sports now are almost year around. Football and basketball have summer leagues and tournaments during summer baseball. Baseball has a fall league. Coached need to work together and many choose not to.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Great thought! When I was coaching football/basketball/baseball/summer baseball in a small community, it was much easier to schedule non-conflicting stuff for the kids. I’m lucky enough in my current district to have a staff of coaches who mostly work together with stuff like this. While I know that I still have a coach or two strongly encouraging year round (or mostly year round) single sport participation, I know that most of my coaches are working with each other. I’d like to believe that my philosophy has worked down into the coaching staffs as well, in that I believe in letting kids be kids. As a dad, I like seeing my boys (who are still very young!) doing one fall sport, one winter sport, one spring sport, and baseball in the summer. Right now, they play baseball in the spring, too, but we squeeze in swimming lessons when we can. I’m hoping that it will be that easy for my boys to stay active in all of that stuff as they get older, too – something that will need the cooperation of their coaches.
      Thank you for the feedback!

  18. I hope this chart and post “has legs” and goes viral. I do believe most coaches endorse their athletes to play multiple sports but I do know that there are as many coaches out there that do not.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      The more that we can share these thoughts and pass this word around, the better chance we have of hitting more coaches. Thank you for doing your part in spreading this message!

  19. Bobby Cash, exactly how did you come across that belief? Or even more importantly, how did you verify your belief in order to state it as fact on here? I’ve coached for 21 years and the vast majority of athletes I’ve coaches played 2 or 3 and even 4 sports. Has very very few only play football.

    And laughable in Texas, your whole post was laughable. Plus you contradict yourself by saying football coaches made kids run track. Wouldn’t that two sports? Uh yeah.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I think that one of the reasons this is such a hot topic is found in your reply. We have some coaches whose beliefs and experiences are founded in multi-sport participation, but we have another large group who have only experienced specialization. To muck up the conversation even more, there are people on both sides of the issue that believe in either method as being the better one. What some of our coaches and parents have experienced in Texas won’t match what many others (both out and in Texas) have experienced). Thank you for doing your part in encouraging and allowing kids to be multi-sport athletes; that’s what we need to see happening!

  20. B. Durbin

    Another thing to consider is the higher risk of injury if a teen specializes in one sport. A stress fracture is more likely with similar motions, especially during periods of growth. More rounded sports histories will help the whole body to develop evenly.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Yes! This will be the meat and potatoes of my next post on this topic (hopefully two weeks from now). Thank you for the insight!

  21. Matt Stretanski

    I have been a high school amd age group swimming coach for going on 20 years and have found the best swimmers to be kids who do other sports. The overwhelming propensity for kids to specialize at a younger Age has helped my wife and I to insist that our children (7 and 10 years) play other sports like soccer, baseball, and horseback riding. You can already see some differences in our two from the kids who are only doing one sport. They are not necessarily better, but they are confident, and enjoy each season as something new and different. This creates lifelong athletes who will fit in fitness to their lifestyle. Making them healthier and happier into adulthood.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Yes! And with only a small percentage of our kids getting the chance to play at the next level (see my post here), it’s important that our high school athletes (and younger) spend their time having fun and learning positive character traits. Thank you for the insight!

  22. Charli

    Love this article! My kids attend a great school where coaches of all sports work well together and allow the kids to play multiple sports. My kids enjoy the break from each sport and have become great athletes and leaders on and off the field!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Excellent! Make sure you thank your coaches for encouraging this culture. My guess is that it’s been a positive experience for the majority of the kids (and parents!) in your community.

  23. Dana Horn

    I am a four year high school cheerleading coach and 20 year gymnastics coach. More importantly, am the mother of a freshman female athlete. She plays golf, basketball, softball, runs track, and is a cheerleader. All the time I defend HER decision to participate in all of these sports. Others assume her father and I push her in to everything. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Lane’s favorite sport is whichever one she is playing at that time. Realistically, she will not have a future in competitive sports after high school, even being a top player in each sport she plays. She is learning, however, valuable life skills. She is mastering time management. She is learning how to adapt and excel under very different coaching styles: something that will undoubtedly help dealing with future bosses. She is learning how to communicate with her coaches about conflicting practice and take schedules. She is learning how different motivational strategies succeed in different situations with different personalities. She is learning that work effort really can trump talent.
    These are the reasons we don’t make our child “choose her favorite.” She is acquiring life skills that will translate into real world success.
    Of she get the opportunity to play sports beyond high school, awesome! If not, playing multiple sports has equipped her to take on the challenges of the world.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Awesome. Can you come be a sports parent in my community? Everything you’ve mentioned is exactly how I push my coaches to run their programs. We want our kids to stay involved in the activities they want to be involved in, learning how to manage all of the difficulties inherent in working with various groups of people. I love your example – thank you for the feedback! (And in response to your last sentence, check out my posts here and here.)

  24. Deloris Little

    I agree. The difficult situation is when coaches pressure athletes to make choices between sports and penalize those who want to play two sports.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Definitely. I try to educate and communicate these benefits with our coaches, especially in terms of not putting our kids in the position of having to choose. One of the worst things I see our kids having to do is deciding which coach to disappoint.

  25. Kathryn

    I’m not the type to say everyone should go one way or the other. You have to do what you feel is best for you and your family. For ours, by high school (because each team is so time consuming) one sport gives time to do other things like fishing; deer, duck, turkey, dove, squirrel, rabbit hunting; family road trips AND keep up with all honors classes. I think that there are pros and cons from both sides and each has to figure out what works for them.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Absolutely. I’m talking mostly about the kids who want to do more than one sport but are told they can’t. I’d never advocate for pushing a kid into something he/she really doesn’t want to do. While there are many benefits to participating in multiple sports, those benefits are lost if the kids aren’t having fun.
      I like your comment about hunting, too. When I was a football coach, I’d lose kids for a practice during playoffs to go hunting with their families. As an AD, we had to move a wrestling dual this year because we were missing too many kids who had gone deer hunting. I know that some will talk about the commitment to a team, but I also enjoy that we have a program allowing our kids to still be kids. Their in-season sport wasn’t all consuming.
      Thank you for the example!

  26. MominTexas

    I agree completely! Not only to “round” the kid athletically, but it keeps them busy and out of trouble. In our case it gives my girl the drive to keep her grades up year round, rather than just during softball season.
    What I have noticed in our small school is some parents discouraging multi-sport participation. This hurts the student and our small school’s athletic program.
    Thanks for putting this information out there. I will share this with many parents in our district.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Ouch – in a small school, your coaches and parents should be strongly advocating for multi-sport participation. You need to share those athletes!
      I really enjoy your comment about academics. In our schools (and in North Dakota as a whole), many of our best academic students are also athletes. Similarly, I see kids every year whose grades are highest during the sport seasons so they can remain academically eligible to compete. As coaches, we have a way to positive influence many of our kids’ decisions, so it’s always important to keep our interactions positive.
      Thank you for sharing your experience!

  27. Charles Guercia

    Great article and I could not agree more. I would always encourage my wrestlers to take the time to get involved in other sports to prevent burn-out from the demands of wrestling. It’s difficult with the youth programs today because the kids feel so much pressure to play the sport all year round in order to remain on the team. I’ve heard youth coaches tell their players that if they take a season off, they may not be asked back to play. They are as wrong as the sky is blue! Hopefully they come across this article.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Feel free to share this post with anyone. One of the reasons I blog is to give other people the opportunity to let me say the things that should be said. As a former football coach, I loved my wrestlers. They tended to have a more pure tackling form, and their balance and competitiveness in one-on-one battles gave them an edge. One of the problems that I’m seeing with many youth coaches is that they tend to be parents who coach from ideals instead of reality. We have youth parents/coaches in town who honestly believe that they are putting our 10 year olds on the track to college scholarships. That’s the mentality that we’re battling every day.
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate your role in keeping kids active.

  28. Jim

    Really? I completely get playing sports and gaining from each of them. Makes complete sense BUT the 45 guys from multiple sports that Urban Meyer recruited all ran sub 4.8 40s, some sub 4.5 thus they’d run track too! Give me high-schoolers Braxton Miller, JT Barrett and Cardale Jones and I’ll bet against your HS basketball team too. Read Pete Carroll’s quote: He wants guys that are “so special athletically, and so competitive, that they can compete in more than one sport.” Those 45 guys at Ohio State are those types of guys. That’s really the key here…and I’m from the play three and four sport era. Yes, one sport accentuates injury and burnout but it also elevates the play of the kids you’re competing against. In the end, it comes down to your athletic ability and IF you can play three or four sports and still compete in college…you to may be going to Ohio State! The kids on that chart are ELITE HS athletes.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I agree, but there’s a trickle down effect, too. (I’m about to speak in generalities, not specifics!) The “freak” athletes from big high schools tend to be the targets of programs like Ohio State (and Michigan, Michigan State, et.al). All of those schools are targeting and recruiting the same type of superior gene athletes, so those recruiters are looking for something that sets some athletes apart from others. What Urban (and Carroll, and others) are referring to are the freak athletes who can compete in many sports. When you go down a level (or two, or three, or four), those coaches are looking to recruit the same thing. A D-II, D-III, or NAIA coach isn’t going to get the type of athlete that Urban gets, but neither are his competitors. The chart from Coach Meyer was just a catalyst for the conversation, not necessarily an all encompassing example of what every college coach wants. I played four sports in high school, but that didn’t mean that big programs were knocking on my door. My talent level allowed me to be a walk-on to multiple sports at an NAIA school, perfect for me. Joe Mauer had a football scholarship to Florida State, was an all-state basketball player, and ultimately signed a professional baseball contract right out of high school. My talent level made me a suitable athlete at the NAIA level; Mauer’s made him suitable for the DI level…but the basic idea is the same.
      More than that, I’m also talking about just allowing kids to participate in multiple sports. If only a small percentage of our kids get the opportunities that Miller/Barrett/Jones/Mauer (or me!) get (see here), then we should be allowing our kids to play lots of stuff.
      I appreciate your comments. Thanks for taking the time to read and respond!

  29. I have been coaching sport since 1978. I have coached at both the youth, high school and college level. I have always believed in athletes doing multi-sports. At the college level it was one of the areas that I would address with my recruits.
    I am real concerned when athletes only do one sport or have been pressured into doing only one sport which in some cases lessen the likelihood of them having an opportunity to sell themselves at the college level in case the sport they really have been doing since parks and recreation falls through.
    This article really supports my method of madness that I have tried to use over the years. I hope coaches and parents get to read this article in its entirety. Those who coach this is something you really need to get on board with.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Feel free to share my thoughts wherever you see fit. I believe that the majority of us believe the same, but we really have to start reaching that vocal minority. To parallel one of your comments, I can remember an athlete in one of my previous schools who had done nothing but basketball since she was really young. By the time she was a sophomore, she was completely burned out on basketball – wanted nothing to do with it. Unfortunately, as a junior, she wanted to participate in something but had no skill set background in any other sport. She wound up being a zero sport athlete because she had spent so much time as a one sport athlete…and that’s the complete opposite effect that our youth programs should have.
      I appreciate your role in selling this mentality. We need to keep hitting one coach at a time!

  30. Meg

    I hear what you are saying but what about the part of being a student ( academics) ? Other extracurricular activities : class officiers? Music programs? Scholastic clubs? Civic involvement? Volunteering ? All these makes a person a well rounded student and I believe helps them to work and enjoy a variety of people .

      1. highschoolsportsstuff

        100% agree! I was lucky enough to go to a tiny high school that allowed participation in everything at once. As a football/basketball/baseball coach, I also served as our school’s one act play adviser for a couple years. I mostly just enjoy watching kids get the chance to do lots of stuff.

  31. Kristin

    What about the coaches who tell the kids “You will not play you if you play another sport!” I have this this at our local HS which is all D1 and they do not want to risk loosing their star players. What about the kids who’s true passion us with just one sport but is a well rounded athlete, does that make them less desirable. The likelihood that they will play more that one sport in college is very low. So why stress more than one sport????

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I’ll try to hit all of your thoughts. Regarding your first comment about the coaches – you’re 100% correct. Coaches are the largest group that we need to pass this message along to; parents are the second. I discuss this issue with my coaches often.
      I agree that we shouldn’t be forcing kids into multiple sports. If they only want to play one, let them play just one. The benefits of playing multiple sports are far outweighed by the negative experience of a kid doing something that he/she doesn’t want to do.
      Lastly, the likelihood of playing even one sport in college is very low. (See those stats here.) That’s why I think it’s important that we don’t stress specialization as a method of earning a scholarship.
      Thank you for reading the post and taking the time to comment!

  32. Sheri Super

    Totally Agree. My son’s #1 Sport is Baseball, but he is also a Basketball player. He enjoys the team chemistry & action on the court and welcomes a little break from Baseball. Basketball also keeps him in shape during the off season. He continues to hit and field in the off season, but he looks forward to the start of baseball season instead of being burnt out by playing all year.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Excellent – and that burn out is one of the detriments that we’re trying to avoid. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  33. Rachel

    I was a multisport athlete in high school for volleyball and softball and also played travel/club for both sports. I was scholarshiped D1 in volleyball and couldn’t wait to drop softball by my junior year but was being pressured by my coaches not to quit.

    High school coaches are failing to recognize how long our seasons are. In volleyball for example, which I now coach at the jr. Level after leaving college coaching, as soon as high school is over, club begins and doesn’t end for the best athletes until July, which is filled with camps until high school picks up again.

    My understanding is that it is much rarer for recruited football players to play football year round, allowing them opportunities to diversify without getting as burnt out. Sports like basketball, soccer, volleyball, baseball, softball, etc., can and do have year round travel seasons and it is in travel ball that coaches identify and recruit their athletes. College coaches only come to high school games after identifying an athlete through travel/club.

    My point is that encouraging athletes to play multi sports when they have decided which sport they want to focus on can be just as often to be in that athlete’s best interest. Having to choose between practices and tournaments, stressing over which coach and teammates to let down, getting home at 9pm after practicing since 3 only to have to start homework– this is all very difficult for athletes to manage.

    It’s important to note these long club/travel seasons aren’t going away any time soon. People make bookoo bucks off of them and their tournaments. Also that I am talking of highschool-aged, college-bound athletes rather than younger athletes, who should diversify for many of the reasons posted. Just wanted to add another consideration to this issue.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Thank you for your insight. I think it’s important to note that my thoughts/comments/philosophies often aren’t targeted at college bound athletes simply because the vast majority of our kids don’t find that description (see the stats here). I run our athletic program (see our goals here) mostly for the kids who are learning skills and attributes necessary to be successful in adult life (see here).
      You are absolutely correct about the position that kids and parents are being put in (see here). Too often, we are forcing our kids to make a decision one way or the other which will lead them to feel like they’re disappointing someone…either a coach or a parent. That’s why I feel that the important part of the change is through the culture, not practices, of youth athletics. The more people that we can show the positive attributes of multi-sport participating alongside the negative attributes of specialization, the more we can slowly change the culture.
      It’s been my experience that college coaches will find athletes wherever they’re playing. It’s their jobs to find those kids, whether through club or high school participation. (I’ll agree that my experience in North Dakota won’t match the experience and practices in larger metro areas.)
      I appreciate your comment about getting kids into other sports even after deciding what “their” sport will be…if for no other reason than because high school is often their last chance to play those sports competitively.
      Thank you for your insight and experiences.

  34. Totally agree. When my girls were young they played soccer, softball, and practiced Tae Kwon Do. The one year we lived in ALBQ, NM, was the only year both my girls ate soccer for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – club teams, school teams, indoor teams.

    My oldest played soccer and softball in high school through her junior year. Her senior year, she decided to run cross country and LOVED it.

    My youngest played soccer through her junior year and she also was a very active member of her ski/snowboard club. During the winter, she pretty much lived on the mountain.

    Changing it up is good for kids. I know in my own experience it was good for my kids.

    Peggy

  35. Lori

    My son is only 11. He has tried soccer, football, basketball, baseball and skating (never made it to hockey). He loves baseball. Baseball is all he wants to play, and for an 11 year old, he is good. You’re telling me that this is a bad thing? Should I make him play sports that he doesn’t want to play? If he is good enough to play college baseball, why does it matter if he was good in football? And even if he wanted to take on another sport at this age, because of club sports and the obsession of some parents to force their kids to be a great multi-sport athlete, my kid would be too far behind to compete. I would love to know your thoughts on this. Please respond, if you can. Thank you.

    Lori, the proud mother of a one sport athlete

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      You won’t find me disagreeing with any of that! It looks to me like your son has tried multiple activities and found just one that he really enjoys. As much as I advocate for multi-sport athletes, those benefits won’t be earned by a kid who doesn’t enjoy participating in a sport. For that reason, I don’t advocate forcing a kid to play something else. What I do advocate for, is allowing kids to participate in multiple sports when they want to.
      Specific to your second point, I can remember times as an AD that students who specialized early were burned out in that sport and decided to stop participating. Because they had specialized, they had learned no other skill sets necessary to participate in something else. Because they hadn’t been allowed to be multi-sport athletes in the first place, they wound up being no sport athletes. It sounds to me like your son has some knowledge in other activities and would have the opportunity to give something else a try if he later decides to.
      Where I would throw some caution is any expectation of your son to play college baseball. (And, I’m not interpreting your comment that way – just speaking in generalities.) The odds of earning a roster sport for college athletics is very small (see the stats here), so I always caution athletes and parents from using that as a reason for specialization (Again, I’m not suggesting that that was the intent of your comment!).
      Thank you for taking the time to read and post your experience.

  36. Allen James

    I competed in two Olympics as a track athlete in the 20K and 50K Walks. My first love was soccer. I played soccer, swam, ran x-c and track (400-800m) in high school. I did a lot well, not great, but everything seemed to come easy to me and I had fun! I racewalked in the summer primarily and began my Olympic dream in college.

  37. Ricky Dawson

    great article! Another reason to play other sports. Our school was small but in the 7-8 grade won city titles in football and basketball! In the 9th the coaches in both sports had a problem with each other and demanded us choose sports nether football or basketball had a winning season for the next 4 years!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      You bring up a good point that others have mentioned, too. It’s imperative for coaches to work together in order to share our kids. Not only will that allow our kids to participate in multiple sports, but it also takes the pressure off of our kids who feel like they have to “choose” one coach over another. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  38. LuLu Oswald

    Great article! Multi-sport athletes are much more versatile and playing multiple sports makes you much more physically stronger and cuts down the risk of repetetive motion injuries that way too many young athletes are more prone to today.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I will write about the physical detriment of specialization in a future post – hopefully in a couple weeks. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

  39. Tim Allison

    Couldnt agree more. All five in our family played in college – mom, dad and three children – and everyone was encouraged to play multi sports, especially at a young age. It worked for us!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Excellent – that was the same experience in my family. For me as a dad, athletics is obviously still a passion of mine, and I’ve tried to pass that down to my sons as well. Mostly, it’s fun to be able to compete in many venues. Thank you for sharing!

  40. Greg King

    I have been a coach (track and field, cross-country, basketball, soccer, robotics) for 24 years now. While I certainly have run into my share of football coaches who discourage their athletes from doing multiple sports, I would say the sports with the most issues I have seen are soccer, basketball and volleyball. And a lot of the problem is because of club teams. Club coaches convince a lot of the good players to play their sport, then point to how many of the scholarships go to players who play for their club team and convince parents that kids won’t be any good at their sport if they are not playing year round. And I see kids getting discouraged from trying other sports by coaches across the board. I have been a CC/Track coach for all but one of the past 24 years, and I have seen plenty of CC/Track coaches who push kids to run ever greater mileage all year round. I have seen football coaches who don’t say “Don’t play another sport” but do say “If you are not doing all of our lifting you will risk losing your spot.” The list goes on. When I kid asks me about a choice of what to do in a particular season, the first question I ask them is “What do you enjoy?” I think forcing kids to specialize is bad for the kids and just plain morally wrong. Particularly when a coach does that in order to benefit the coach. It turns the purpose of the athlete-coach relationship on its head.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      This is a great comment with some excellent insight. I think the “problem” sports are specific to various communities, but your experience is probably similar to the experience of others. When we hear of coaches trying to nudge kids into year round specialization for the purpose of college scholarships, I share these stats with them (click here). Athletes are athletes whether they play one or multiple sports, so why not let kids do the things they’ll have fun doing?
      I completely agree with what you’re saying. Thank you for the insight!

  41. Steve Schoenbaechler

    Of course, entirely agree. No brainer. There comes times where the best of players have to take a break from their “main sport” and realize just what else is out there.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I appreciate the comment…and that break can be beneficial for many reasons. Thank for you taking the time to comment.

  42. Lisa ernst

    My son has always played multi-sports- ice & roller hockey, baseball and most years, basketball. I feel there is/was many great benefits to doing so BUT a few years back, he got a call to say he made the highest level hockey team, which made him estatic. The catch was the coach wanted practices to begin immediately and had planned multiple summer tournaments.he had just started his new baseball season (school & Legion ball) however and there was no way I was going to make him quit. The hockey coach worked around it that year but it was made clear that in the future AA/ AAA hockey was to be played year round or not at all. The result? He quit club hockey, now playing only for his high school varsity team than plays baseball from late March until early September which is when hockey begins anew. I think coaches need to be reminded of the benefits of being a multi-sports athlete.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Good for your son, and thank you for sharing this example. Hockey is really big in our community, too, and ice time is always at a premium. We have obnoxiously priced camps for kids as young as kindergarten in town that take away time year round. It’s frustrating for me to see the number of kids we have in our community who focus on hockey for many, many years only to have to either drop the sport or get cut in high school because we can’t support a program with that many kids. At that point, many of them don’t have another sport to fall back on. While many of them will continue playing club based hockey or find other avenues to keep playing, we’d much rather have those kids with the ability to compete for us in other activities. Thank you for sharing!

  43. Jim

    i agree that playing more than one sport makes one abetter athlete. Better student, not so much. Playing a varsity sport is so physically demanding that it is difficult to maintain academic performance. Play a second or third sport for fun in the off season and concentrate on school more.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I think there are some correlations between activities and academics, but I believe that the much stronger tie has to do with the kids who are involved. Those kids who are in any activity tend to be more motivated as a whole, which is a larger reason for the academic piece. One of the attributes that athletics teaches kids that I’m a big proponent of is learning that time management needed to meet classroom expectations. Thank you for commenting!

  44. scott

    As a kid I accidentally embraced this multi sport attitude. Started with a love of baseball, and grew to “prepare” for it with other sports. Played soccer and basketball, ultimately wresting won out. But went on to junior college to wrestle, and still found myself on the soccer field and behind the plate in baseball. Still to this day in involved in many sports, playing soccer, softball bowling golf, and recently picking up a few more rugby and hurling.

  45. A.S.

    I see the benefits of playing more than one sport. The problem, for me, is when they overlap. As a coach, I don’t want a player of mine missing practices or games because of another sport. I just don’t think it’s fair to the rest of the team. I coach volleyball, and I see a huge difference in those that play competitive club ball (off season), and those who only play high school. If they play another sport, it is sure to overlap. I’ve experienced it with a few players I’ve coached. Just a thought.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Agreed – when the club seasons are thrown into the mix, there is going to be a huge overlap. Since I’m advocating for educational based athletics in the high school setting, my angle is questioning the need for year round club sports. In North Dakota, our high school seasons are set so as to not overlap (with just a couple exceptions that last for a week). The off-season club schedules are what causes problems for our kids. Do the club participants generally learn a higher skill set? Yes, although I would argue that it isn’t always exponentially greater and that the negatives of year-round (or close to year-round) participation out weigh the positives for most students. That conflict between off-season club schedules and in-season sports is what causes our current problems. I tell our athletes and our coaches that the in-season sport is always the priority…although my message isn’t always followed.
      Thank you for sharing your experience!

  46. A.S.

    Forgot to add this… Also keep in mind that Meyer is talking about Division 1 athletes here, who are good enough to play football at the University of Florida. I don’t think this applies to any kid. For some kids, if they really want to go somewhere with their sport, they need to really focus on it.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Well, yeah, but the odds of a kid going anywhere to play after high school are pretty small already (see the stats here). I struggle with asking a kid to specialize *in the hopes that* he/she might earn a scholarship down the road. The benefits of multi-sport participation are available immediately. Specializing *might* help a kid earn a scholarship, but he/she won’t gain the benefits of multi-participation. Multi-participation kids will get those benefits without any guarantee of a scholarship. If we’re truly going to run educational based athletics with the majority of our kids in mind, shouldn’t we be pushing multi-sport athletes when possible?

  47. Dale Schian

    All sports stress the developing bodies of young athletes. Playing multiple sports promotes the development of different muscle groups, and permits stressed groups the opportunity to recover. Young athletes who “focus” on a single sport and play it year round, may be at a greater risk of both mental and physical fatigue.

  48. Dave

    The other thing that college coaches are looking for is how much room is left for improvement. An athlete that only played one sport and dedicated lots of time has less room for improvement then an athlete that played three sports.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      It’s been my experience that more so than room for improvement, it’s having the ability to learn. Kids who have played for multiple coaches in multiple venues have been exposed to many different leadership styles and have had to adapt to those in order to learn. These are the kids that become valuable employees later. (I’m not suggesting that specialized kids don’t learn this trait, just that having more voices leads to a greater chance to learn it.) Thank you for your reply!

  49. Leandra Samuel

    As a spectator & lover of all sports you have given a good confirmation for supporting the need to make sure athletes are exposed to whatever sport activity they desire to participate in without worrying about negative ramifications. Very well written word.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Much appreciated. I’d like to focus on your phrase “they desire to participate in” which is one of the most important pieces to both sides of this discussion.

  50. Linda DLR

    Absolutely agree! I remember playing four sports in my high school years though I ended up playing field hockey in college. It was so much fun to change from one sport to the next after each season ended. It kept my love of all sports alive. I do the same for my own kids – support their playing many different sports throughout the year. They’re in elementary school now and I want them to know there’s more out there than just soccer.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Excellent! That’s exactly what I do with my boys, too, and they’ve enjoyed it so far. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  51. Cordova

    although it may seem this an effective way to achieve a better overall athlete and this may work well for non skill positions in football. This in turn will cause a lower skill set to be achieved for any skill sport. There are plenty of studies done on this in the soccer world where hours trained per week are tracked at high level academies across the world.

    Any skill position in football should focus on those particular skills as much as possible.

    You are correct in the thinking that “athletes” will be created by playing several sports in high school. But the time spent on these other activities especially during the primary development years 10-18 are causing these skill sport athletes to not reach their full potential

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Agreed, but my question would be to what full potential are you aiming? The number of kids playing soccer, whether year round or part time, are far less than the number of kids who get opportunities to play at the next level. Further, there are plenty of statistics that support the idea of specialization causing physical damage to young, growing, athletes. If we know that specialization might only increase their already small percentage chance of playing at the next level by another small percentage, why would we use that to take away the opportunity to play other sports (if they want to, of course)? In my opinion, this aim for increased reps to improve skill level (in my community it’s largely happening in hockey) is what’s causing the scholarship feeding frenzy among athletes and parents. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, students and parents are continually under the impression that this increased focus will eventually lead to a scholarship, which just isn’t true for most kids (see the stats here). Is it true for some kids? Yup, but not the majority, and the majority is who we should be focusing on in high school athletics.
      I appreciate your insight. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  52. Butch williams

    I have always agreed in this principal 100%. I have seen kids burn out about the end of their Jr. Year when they are asked to put effort only into one sport. I have also seen where great natural athletes could have developed their football skills much better if they would possibly have played basketball, baseball, or perhaps track. There are other skills to be learned and other muscle groups to be developed while learning to play that new sport. I also think that young people seem to do better when they get away from that same coach and sport during the year. You need a little break. I used to tell my coaches that I love vanilla ice cream probably more than anything else. If I ate it every day of my live I would most likely get tired of it and want another flavor. While I was at La Tech I wrote a Thesis titled Does Staleness Effect the Ability of A Player to Perform at his Maximum Ability? The results from this Thesis certainly backs up my thoughts. I want to impress on you that this is certainly not scientific research and these are just my thoughts but they are my thoughts and experiences.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I agree with you completely, and I love the vanilla ice cream metaphor. I’m probably going to steal that from you. Thank you for sharing your insight!

  53. Mike M

    great post. It’s right on and very timely as this has become one of the biggest areas of concern for the current athlete. A big part of the problem is the coach who says he is all about the multi sport athlete, but when there is an overlap between activities you better be at his or your status on his team will be affected. Another issue I’ve encountered is how a coach will influence parental decisions by insinuating that the only way to scholarship is to devote all your time to this or that sport. In reality very few of any of those players will ever be good enough for a scholarship. When that realization sets in, regret will follow, because they traded off the fun of playing with friends and classmates for an unrealistic dream. We need coaches to change this trend and be honest with kids and their parents.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      You are absolutely right on both accounts. The first problem needs to be addressed by leadership; I try to have this conversation with my coaches as often as possible. The second problem can be addressed by showing the actual numbers. I posted those a little while back (click here). Thank you for your comments.

  54. Kim

    Let’s not forget bowling. Their opponent is invisible. They have to be able to read the lane and execute a shot and make changes as the shot changes. They also have to know their equipment and which ball would be best to execute the shot. There are 100 ‘ s of different shots out there which makes approaching a game\match that much more challenging and you have to hope the house lays down the shot correctly. In high school you have to work as a TEAM or you will not succeed. It is my understanding that a lot of pitchers bowl. It really helps to develop their mental game. My son is a pitcher and he bowls. Not only for his school but in the off season. I LOVE this article.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Absolutely! I simply used the sports that we host in my district, but there are a ton of others around the country providing the same general benefits. Thank you for sharing your example!

  55. Tamara Payton

    My son is a multi sport athlete playing football, basketball and track but unfortunately has a basketball coach that makes life difficult and makes it known, without outwardly admitting it, that if you play football your basketball life will be difficult. Truly sad for the kids and stressful for the parents!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I agree. This mentality causes plenty of issues for parents and students alike (I wrote a little bit about this in a post that can be found here). In these causes, it’s important to have as many leaders as possible supporting kids’ choices to be involved in multiple activities. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  56. David Hedge

    Thank you!!!!!! As a high school varsity softball coach and a summer coach I have been saying this for years. Parents have told me that “specializing” is the best way for their daughter to get a scholarship (that’s another story). I am not only going to share this I’m going to print it out and post it all over the place.

    Thank you!!!!!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Excellent – and thank you for your comments.
      While you’re printing and posting, feel free to share these numbers, too (click here). Not enough parents have a solid grasp of how small the chance for a scholarship is.

  57. I totally agree, but it’s real hard to play more than one sport, coaches don’t want to lose their players to another sport! I love Football, and I hate lacrosse, my sons play both… The strength and agility training that goes with lacrosse makes it a great complementary sport for football, so I guess I really don’t hate lacrosse. My rule is you have to play two sports well, it keeps them in shape and out of trouble… Oh another rule, a C today, is like a D was when I was in school… Only A’s and B’s are exceptable!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      You’re right; the coaches need to be on board with this concept. I try to have this conversation with my coaches often, and I feel like we’re doing a good job of sharing athletes – for the most part.
      I love the focus on academics, as well. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  58. jay ballauer

    In principle, I agree, but it’s a bit disingenuous to say Urban Meyer values it solely by showing the data. Around here, all football players are forced into Cross Country and/or Track as a part of the off-season programs. Most athletes, by default, must be multi-sport athletes.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Understood. The chart was simply a catalyst to spark the conversation, not necessarily a complete representation of the culture. The type of athlete that Coach Meyer recruits doesn’t represent the overwhelming majority of our high school athletes across the country. My point was simply to use that chart as a way of introducing the benefits of multi-sport participation.
      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      The more people we can get on board, the more we can change the culture a little bit at a time. Thank you for sharing!

  59. As a coach for Nordic skiing in the wintertime and kayak racing in the summer, I am always amazed at the attitude of some ‘traditional’ coaches who expect high school *students* to play one sport year around. Cross Country skiing is a varsity sport in Minnesota, but still a ‘minor’ sport. Still, we pick up an athlete or two every year from hockey, football or gymnastics. Main reason – burnout. Second reason – injury. Third reason – fun.
    Most high school students are not going to get a ride to a D1 program, or even be able to make the college team as a walk-on in their ‘one and only’ sport. But they may find that the skills they gained in one of several sports may lead to a spot on the club team, which will give them a social and athletic outlet to complement their academic efforts.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Coach Jones, thank you for your comments. I think you may find some of my previous posts helpful when having these conversations, in particular here, here, here, and here.
      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

  60. Rob

    i kind of disagree with this. The top 1% of HS football players Meyer is talking about is not really a representative sample as that’s already a self selected group for athletic potential and football is not really a sport with the same technique requirements. The level of play in HS football has actually skyrocketed BECAUSE of the emphasis in year round training, drilling, and the whole 7 on 7 season that now runs all summer long. The technique sports (tennis, golf, swimming) have never had multisport athletes for the most part because of the constant practice required continuously for skills.

    If Meyer really felt so strong about multi sport athletes then surely you’d see more of those at UF and OSO. You don’t. They’re single sport athletes who train and prepare year round. He actually gave ultimatums to several UF athletes who were track athletes to give it up if they wanted to see the field. The demands of high level sports are in conflict with the idea of general athleticism, and there is no getting around that.

    My kids play multiple sports, and that’s great for the non elite that makeup most youth programs, but don’t confuse this cohort with the future professional calibre cadre. The same advice on training and participation dont apply

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I agree with you on the college athlete front, but it’s important to know that I don’t focus on those kids who are headed in that direction. If you flip through some of my previous posts, you’ll see that my focus is usually squarely on the 97% of high school athletes who won’t be earning a scholarship for college athletics.
      You’re right that the level of play in football (and in other sports) has increased over time, but the percentage of kids who get the opportunity to play at that level hasn’t. By forcing our kids into specialization in the hopes of earning a scholarship, we’re actually just taking away many of the benefits of youth sports. I think you and I are on the same page with this.
      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

  61. Clay Connell

    very refreshing point of view. I attended a small school where many of us played football, basketball, baseball, and track. My first love was baseball, but I earned a scholarship in football. I was not very talented in basketball or track, but I enjoyed them. Though I played only intercollegiate football, through required physical education classes, I also picked up tennis and golf and despite my defensive tackle build, I loved my gymnastics class. My children are athletic, and though I would support my grandson in any effort, I will not push anything beyond active lifestyle. The best athletics activities are choices based on growing fondness, not fame and fortune. I don’t enjoy professional athletics which seems oxymoronic anyway, and I am growing less satisfied with amateur games aimed to turn out professionals.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Thank you for sharing your insight. Enjoyment of the game is still the most important part of youth sports; we just need to get back to that focus.

  62. Craig Musser

    Agree with article. How do you stop a small number of athletes dominating your high school sports program so others can participate?

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Great question, and one that is really tough for me to address. I realize that we’re creating a Catch 22 by encouraging athletes to participate in multiple sports: more athletes participating = fewer opportunities (in team sports, at least). I have written about how we break down the levels in our district; you can find that post here.
      I think it’s important to note that in our district participation numbers in most sports are declining (or at best are holding steady). We have very few sports left that involve cutting after try-outs, and we have participation opportunities available in many sports. That said, the more athletes we have participating across many sports, the more opportunities we’re taking away from other kids. Like I said in my previous post, I think it’s pretty Utopian to suggest that we can run a high school sports program strictly for participation purposes; the reality is that there are still other expectations of competitive athletics that we must meet.
      I’m not sure what the “correct” answer to your question would be. We try to point out the sports where participation numbers are low and nudge kids in that direction. In our district, we can always use kids in wrestling, swimming, tennis, golf, girls’ basketball, and girls’ hockey. In the sports that we do run try-outs and cuts, we let the kids who were cut join another sport if they want to (it doesn’t happen often, though). We also try to offer as many levels as our budget and our competition schools can support. (The previous school district I worked at supported four freshmen volleyball teams so we could be no-cut for freshmen.)
      Other than that, I don’t know. I’d be curious to hear if and how other districts handle this, too. In the world of competitive sports, though, I don’t think we should be discouraging multiple sport participation that detracts from mass participation, but we do need to attempt to manage it.
      Thank you for the comments – great discussion question!

  63. Graham Ramsay

    Especially at pre-teenage years & up to 15/16’s a variety of phys. ed. experiences are critical, not only games but also movement skills of learning to run, jump, etc. Physical Education means what it say’s PHYSICAL EDUCATION of the whole child.
    You don’t send your child to school to only learn math or science. You want a well rounded person be it sport or school.
    Many college coaches are too greedy and often forgotten their role as educators in nurturing teenagers. But on their side winning & losing as become too important & learning goes out the window. So too many become “poachers” rather than “coaches.” Recruiting is replacing coaching education.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      It’s has been my experience that college coaches are less of the problem than those folks involved at the high school level (coaches, parents, and kids). I haven’t spoken with many college coaches who have encouraged year round specialization from kids, especially at an early age. In later years, I think this has happened, but that usually involves kids who have been identified as having the ability to play at the next level (and often have a scholarship in hand). In those cases, college coaches are looking to get those kids involved in the most competitive environment they can find in order to foster competitive growth; but those athletes are far and few between.
      I completely agree with your statement about well-rounded students and would lump music, art, foods, etc. in with physical education, math, science, history, etc.
      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

  64. dils

    I have a few issues with this graphic and a connundrum on a personal level. The stat is misleading as it provides no context. What is the breakdown on their second sports? And there is no doubt that tOSU recruits the best of the best of the best ad naseum so of course they’re able to compete in other sports.

    Now leaving polyanna land & joining the real world, my children go to the largest school in our state. 2500+ students, about 650 per class with 330 of those being male. Competition is fierce while roster spots are finite. This year there were 37 freshman that tried out for boys soccer, 6 made JV,3 varsity. 20+ freshman will be trying out for baseball. I can bar none guarantee you that of those 60 kids, 58 of them are playing travel ball at least 7+ months of the year & in training for 3 more.

    When you live in a major city & go to a school with a DIVERSE population you absolutely, positively can not go season to season sport to sport. You won’t even be a gym class hero. First of all, the system isn’t set up for it. Tryouts for the next season & practice starts before you’re even thru with the current one. What if your favorite sport happens to be the second season? It possible you could miss up to 3 weeks of the start of the season,2 minimum before you hit the field. You’re Wally Pipping your ownself.

    Of the 47 players recruited by Coach Urbs approximately 30 are ”athletes” while 18 are “lineman”. I wager then that the great majority of the second sport that OSU footballers play is track & field. Well, running/jumping is as natural as breathing & sleeping for those of us with 2 legs & 2 lungs. The other sport they play is wrestling. Like breathing to them. My bet is less than 8 of those kids play both football and basketball/baseball in some combo. Secondary sports that MOST kids play are ones that can be picked up when the season starts and support in some way their primary sport. Anything that requires specialized skills, i.e. baseball, soccer, basketball, golf are basically played year round. Again, if they do another sport it’s in a supporting role.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Thank you for your comments – great insight for discussion.
      You’re correct in your statement about Coach Meyer’s athletes. I wasn’t trying to use his chart as an umbrella statement for the rest the world; it was simply something to spark the conversation of specialization.
      For the rest of it, I can only speak for what we do in North Dakota and in our district. Our sport seasons are scheduled so they don’t overlap (with a couple exceptions that last for a week), so students aren’t dealing with conflicting high school seasons. The sports that are running club based seasons on their own calendars cause conflicts all over the place, and those are the conflicts I’m speaking about. Rather than specializing in those sports year round, we want our kids playing different sports. Which leads me to my next thought…
      If your district has 37 freshmen trying out for soccer, why are there only two levels being offered? I’m assuming that there are other schools around you that could support at least one freshmen team, as well. In our district, when we have the numbers to support an extra level, we generally try to start another level (provided we have other schools to compete against).
      My last question would simply be to ask what’s the end game for those 60 kids who are working year round on their sport? Is their intent to put in all of that time in order to play for the high school team at some point, or is their intent to log that time in order to play at the next level? I’m not going to judge one way or the other, but it’s important for the kids, parents, and coaches to be realistic about the culture that’s being created. In my community, we have people who encourage our kids to get as much ice time as possible throughout the year to improve their hockey skill set. Unfortunately, the underlying notion is that this increased ice time is going to translate into opportunities to play hockey beyond high school. Too often, I have parents in my office complaining about the large time and money investment in a kid’s sport that didn’t translate into anything beyond the JV team. These are the problems I’m trying to avoid.
      I think that can even be tied back to what you’ve posted. If 37 freshmen tried out for soccer and only 9 made a team, how many of the other 28 kids had something else to do? And how much time prior to their freshmen year did they spend on strictly soccer preparing for this tryout?
      I understand the reality of our current culture, but that’s the reality that we need to change…little by little. Thank you, again, for sharing your insight. I think those are important speaking points.

      1. dils

        First of all don’t even get me started on the overlapping seasons. I live in a major city in the south & the HSAA certainly doesn’t have the best interests of the students in mind. If you happen to wrestle the spring sports tryouts are the week following conference championships. Still on the wrestling schedule is three major tournaments: dual states, regionals and states. Thus you would miss two weeks practice, 1 weeks of games before you hit the field. If your sport is baseball but you happen to wrestle to fill some need to be involved you have Wally Pipped yourself. Also, basketball players just play basketball period. We don’t need to concern ourselves with them.

        There are a dozen schools in the city at or about the same size so it’s competition for a finite number of roster spots. There isn’t money for freshman sports & it’s currently a struggle to support middle school. So many kids play clubs in a variety of sports where there are plenty of tournaments & teams for all seasons.

        In reality, the only 2 club teams that could possibly interfere with school sports are Soccer and baseball. Baseball never does, there is plenty of time for clubs to get their $$$. Soccer on the other hand wants to be more controlling. The coaches are way better, more experienced and typically from overseas with that flair. They find it pointless to play for your high school but you’ll find the kids ignore them & those that play both at the big schools here do in fact go to college on scholarship. Numbers means greater competition. Competition creates better players.

        My son has been swinging a baseball bat left handed since he came out. Hardly misses. His glove is always in his hand. The other sports he has interest in are golf & lacrosse. They are all in the spring & you can’t play all 3. No football, never has had interest. Cross country is a no. Basketball is out remember? That leaves wrestling which he could be pretty friggin good. However……that just ain’t happenin.

        When he no longer wants to play baseball we’ll play golf & life will still be good.

        When you live in a school district this big if you find one thing you can be good at you better go for it. Not everybody gets to participate in everything just because they like it too. Find other activities such as debate, DECA, FBLA, FFA, chess, theater, etc. to help round you out.

        Next spring break on your way to Florida stop in East Cobb, Ga. Go to the baseball complex & watch 12U, 13U & 14U. I promise you’ll find high quality JV & in some cases varsity equivalent teams if they came up and played a season in the midwest. The old Kentucky could beat an NBA team argument.

        It’s just different, that’s all.

        1. highschoolsportsstuff

          Ouch – yup, that’s a tough spot. It’s tough to encourage multi-participation in a system that’s not set-up for or encourages those practices. I do like your listing of other activities available to the kids; hopefully your son has found something in the activities world to join and enjoy. Thanks, again, for sharing the difference in your experience. We’re fortunate enough here that our NDHSAA sets a calendar that supports multi-participants. With our limited population, it’s a necessity in most schools.

  65. Roger

    I enjoy the concept, but there are practical limitations. First, the article is written (as presented) from a college coach (say Urban Meyer) perspective. But I would be interested to know how many of Urban’s football players play OTHER SPORTS in college? How many other sports did his 2nd and 3rd string quarterbacks play while they were hoping to someday be #1. I literally am totally clueless on this, but I suspect they are expected to be all-out dedicated to football. I’d really like to know what other sports Jones (3rd string QB who beat Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon for the national title. College coaches cannot have it both ways … wanting to see their players be so rounded by observing them in other sports, so they can get their hands on them for football. I DO know of some college FB players who run track, but that is not so much just another sport as often a training ground for their principle sport (spring conditioning). As a high school basketball coach, I can tell you that basketball has become, or better said, does offer, a year round program. There’s always spring, summer, and fall leagues (club teams) that give the player tremendous time on the court, and that’s where experience comes from. It is true, that I can see an average kid, totally close the gap to a stellar player, because that kid played spring, summer, and fall league ball. It’s just simple reality. If a football player could play 30 more games a year (without risk of over-use of body or injury), the experience gained would be substantial. But schools typically do not have 3 out of season leagues for competitive football at the same level. Basketball does. And the kids that play advance themselves. And a kid that wants even a shot at college basketball, has to be the best, as it is competitive. So it is a challenge. Trust me, a college basketball coach will not give a favorable recruiting status to a kid with 3 points a game and 2 rebounds, versus a kid with 15 points a game and 7 rebounds (assuming the same player-position), just because the kid with 3 points also plays baseball. So you have a ton of kids playing a sport they love, with a dream of playing college ball, and they will want to do anything that is available to them to get better at their sport. The challenge is that the athletes with natural athletic gift cannot keep the advantage they had in the 8th and 9th grade all through high school. The kids that work hard at their sport do catch up, and often pass those that try to diversify. Personally, I prefer that kids play several sports. It’s good to get the exposure to other coaches, other teammates, and all the dynamics therein. But the current high school reality conflicts with that dream. When there is a NATIONAL ban on playing on ANY team (school, club, AAU, etc) for that sport out of the prescribed season, then we will see massive growth in athletes playing multiple sports. Until that time, the competitive advantage for the average kid says immersion in that sport (particularly basketball, which does offer 4 seasons of legitimate court play on legitimate teams). Part of the same challenge (again, with a basketball focus here in my reply), is that often the high school coach IS the off season AAU coach, etc. Thus, he works on plays, defenses, etc. So the kids that play off season, come to regular season, knowing more about the coaches systems. That puts them at competitive advantage, over multi sports playing players. I’ve seen football players quit our basketball program, not because they were not gifted athletes, but because they saw the kids that played year round know the game better, the team’s system better, and thus they did not get the playing time (not as punishment for playing multiple sports, but merely because the other players were more versed in the systems being used). So while I do totally agree it is a better route for the individual to play multiple sports and all that brings them, it can be a detriment to the sport they play. And what coach really wants to look a 9th grader in the eyes and say, “odds are, you will never play college ball”. Well, I do, but I mean say it in a way that tells the kid who shouldn’t do his best in THAT sport. Colleges have the luxury of recruiting the best. Once you get to that top 3% of high school athletes, yea, it would seem great to have some of that 3% having played multiple sports, for all the reasons mentioned in the article and the many comments. But here’s my question, and the statistics would be hard to find I assume, but how many of the 97% of any one of them? It’s easy to look at it from the college recruiters’ perspective of kids already on his radar … the ones he want to look at further, and see what they are doing, and finding some that play multiple sports would be a real find. But you are talking only those ALREADY on his radar, or capable of being on his radar. The lure of college athletics is strong in the younger high school kids. Often, by senior year, they realize they are not D1 prospects, LOL, so they play another sport to have some fun. See it all the time. But while the thought of college play is there, they want to do whatever they can to be the very best. Because in the end, cracking that top 3% in your sport is not easy.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Fantastic reply with great points! I’ll try to touch on a lot of it.
      First, you’re correct about the athletes that Meyer recruits. I used his chart as a catalyst for the conversation, but it certainly doesn’t apply to the majority of our high school athletes. Further, those type of elite athletes fall into another whole category. I see high school kids spending their senior years (and sometimes junior) specializing after they’ve received an offer and want to improve as much as possible before getting on campus. Once on campus, very, very few kids are able to play multiple sports. (Antonio Gates actually switched to strictly basketball because Nick Saban wouldn’t let him play both sports at Michigan State!) If you read through my blog, you’ll see that those types of athletes aren’t my focus. I try to run my athletic department for the benefit of the other kids. Those who are college level talents are going to get there regardless of our programs (usually), so we focus on the other kids.
      Side note – great use of the 3% and 97% stats. Check out my previous posts here and here.
      You had mentioned the difficulty in sharing those scholarship stats with kids and parents, but I do it openly and as often as possible. I think it’s important to be very realistic with our stakeholders. Not only do I share those statistics, but I’m also very open and honest in telling parents that a kid’s genetic make-up is more important in their ability to play college sports than their skill development from ages 5-18. That doesn’t mean that kids shouldn’t try to become as good as they can, but they need to be realistic about where the ride ends.
      I try to reinforce those ideas through the way I run my athletic program. I don’t discuss winning and losing with my coaches, and I really only pass along three department goals (find them here). In addition, I survey our kids at the end of every season so I can show our coaches why our kids are playing their sport (find that post here).
      One of the things that we do in North Dakota that is helpful is that the coaches of high school team sports in ND are not allowed to work with their teams outside of the high school season (with the exception of baseball and softball; our summer programs need knowledgeable coaches for their programs, and most of the good ones are coaching high school). So our basketball, volleyball, and hockey coaches can’t work with our kids on a club team outside the school season. This makes it easier for our coaches to advocate multi-sport participation (and allows our coaches to take some much needed time off, as well).
      I think that our ultimate goal should be trying to educate our kids/parents about how difficult it is to earn that scholarship so they change the reasons for participation. I don’t think that would lead to anyone trying less hard to be great, but the pressure placed on meeting those expectations should be less.
      Again – great comments. I appreciate having your insight!

  66. Don

    Agree to a point. If the kid wants to specialize, let him. Whether he plays one sport or five, chances are 99.9% he’ll never suit up for Ohio State anyway.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I agree with you on both points. Here are the stats to back up your second comment (click). Regarding your first, I think it should be the kid’s decision. If a kid wants to play just one sport, let him/her; if the kid wants to play more, let him/her! Unfortunately, my experience has been witnessing kids who wanted to do more being forced (or pseudo-forced) into specializing. That’s the attitude I was addressing in my post. Thank you for the comment!

  67. Bub

    If I would have known this, I would have tried out for basketball and baseball, too. But I stuck with just football. Who knows? I probably would have been better at baseball, maybe even better at basketball than football (and baseball). Oh, well. I’m still content with my life. At least I don’t have student loan debt. There’s no guarantee I would have gotten a free ride scholarship. I’m not saying I was a horrible player, but there’s only so much scholarship/college money to go around.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Yours is the message that I wish we could spread around more. I speak to multiple adults who wish they would have taken advantage of more opportunities in high school – with both athletics and other activities. You’re absolutely right about that scholarship money. I pulled some statistics that I shared in a previous post that can be found here. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I definitely agree. This is something that I discuss with a majority of our coaches every year. Sometimes it isn’t so much nudging kids to other sports as it is making sure we aren’t subtly (or noticeably) suggesting that they not play other sports.

  68. Kellie

    What about kids who do other extracurricular activities and don’t WANT to do other sports. My daughter is at the top of her game in soccer, made the state Olympic development team and still absolutely loves the game. She is also a straight-A honor’s student, active in her highschool JROTC–including their Raiders team which is a team competition event and does community service activities. She ran track in middle school in addition to soccer and if anything it hurt her by wearing out her legs! She came in 5th in her district in her events so she wasn’t bad at it–just wore her down way too much.

    I think coaches just want a well-rounded person. When I was recruited for colleges that was the number one thing I was told. I did play 2 sports but lots of kids did back then. What gave me a leg up was that I also was very involved in choir, JETS, chess team, had an almost straight “A” average and was very involved in my church youth-group’s local community service projects.

    If being involved in two sports is the only “well-rounded” part of their college application then I can see how that could be important. Otherwise, though I absolutely believe in the importance of sports in developing a child, I really don’t think playing two of them is the magic ingredient. Being well-rounded in general is the key. And this comes from my friends who happen to be college coaches also…

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Absolutely. I’m not advocating for “making” kids do multiple sports. My message is simply that forcing a kid to specialize in one sport isn’t necessarily going to put him/her ahead or give him/her any advantage in the recruiting game. I’d never suggest making a kid do something just for sake of doing something. I recognize the athletic development benefits to participation in multiple sports, but many of those benefits would be lost if a kid isn’t enjoying his/her time in the sport. Outside of that, it sounds like your daughter has a pretty aggressive participation schedule with lots of other stuff – good for her!

  69. I agree kids should be well rounder I’m sports one thing my son does outside of football is bowling with him being ADHD it teachrsbhim focus how to work as a team and how to work as on as well he has gone to state every year he has been in and this is his 6th year

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I like the example! Different activities can teach different character traits. I’m glad that your son has found something fun and challenging for him.

  70. Tonya Riffe

    Loved this article and it just reinforced what I thought and feel as a parent of middle and high school female athletes!my girls have always been allowed to play and try every sport that they are interested in. They couldn’t make better grades, and excel in everything they try! My main concern is these kids don’t get time to be kids when a sport goes all year long and I’m thinking if they get burned out bc they don’t get a break from that particular sport! I wish every coach and person involved in school athletics would read this!!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Excellent! And my hope is that your girls still find time to be kids, but they’ll also appreciate being able to spend that much time with their friends through activities, too. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Large meaning “important” as opposed to “trivial”. Despite the fact that we’re discussing a minority of coaches, it’s a minority that will require our attention in order to fix a problem.

  71. Lee Reeder

    I have always loved every level of sports equally from high school to the pros & no matter what balance needs to be established between school work & athletics because you can be the best athlete but not have the grades. I am glad that most kids do participate in more than 1 sport but balance is the key to staying mentally healthy.

  72. Alison

    as a coach it’s hard to deal with students in multiple sports whose seasons crossover each other. It’s hard to get things accomplished at practices when students has to leave early to go to other sports practice. How do students learn to honor their commitments when they have to keep leaving early to attend other sports?

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      What is causing the overlap? If it’s a school sport based overlap, that’s pretty short sighted of the high school association to create a calendar with overlaps. Our North Dakota calendar has a couple small overlaps (that affect very few teams/kids), so we don’t deal with this at the high school level. If the overlap is being created by out of season club sports, then, in my opinion, the commitment is to the high school sport that’s in season. I’ve known high school coaches who speak of being committed to the program by telling kids they need to be in the weight room year round, play off season leagues, go to summer camps, and generally live and breathe the sport. In my opinion, that’s obsession, not commitment. Without knowing more about your particular situation, I don’t know where your sport falls on that spectrum, but that’s the message I pass along to our public.

  73. Erick

    I totally agree! Athletes who do multiple activities, sports or not, are making themselves more well rounded than a person who does one activity. Athletes who do more not only use other muscles and skills, it builds their competitiveness, desire, ability manage their time and most of all their brain. The mental aspect of sports is overlooked way too much in sports and playing multi-sports helps you decipher, recognize and react to different things. You are unlikely to be the best in everything you do and multi-sport athletes need to be handle adversity when they are not the best in their lesser sports.

    I will always encourage my kids and players to play/do different activities.

  74. Gary Oakley

    “LARGE minority”? Are you implying that the minority of coaches who prefer one-sport athletes is in fact large, as opposed to a small minority? Check yo gramma’ fool.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Large meaning “important” as opposed to “trivial”. Thank you for the grammar lesson and insightful addition to the discussion.

  75. Jeff LaFerney

    I agree kids should play numerous sports. Both my wife and I and my son and daughter all played 3 varsity sports each. But by the time my kids were playing it, coaches of the sports weren’t accepting of the multiple interests. My kids weren’t “dedicated” to their sports, supposedly. And especially in the summer, when the three coaches may have scheduled events that conflicted with the other sports, they all expected my son and daughter to choose theirs, always causing issues. My kids persevered, but maybe these high school coaches should read this article and/or be told my the college coaches that multi-sport athletes are preferred. It would have saved my kids a lot of headaches and heartaches in their high school careers.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I agree 100%. I try to have this conversation with my coaches as often as possible. Putting kids in conflict with different coaches isn’t beneficial for anyone. Thank you for sharing your experience. My hope is that we can slowly change the culture to avoid more instances like this.

  76. LCC

    I love this article. Our new AD is changing everything and requiring the kids to pick one sport. I’m so worried about his philosophy and the negative affects it’ll have on our kids. I was worried before I read this article, and now I’m even more worried! Do you have any advice on how we can keep our kids in more than one sport (at school) with an AD like this? City sports are not an option, nor are club. Thanks!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Wow – I’m speechless. I’d be interested in knowing the reason for heading that direction.
      Does his philosophy require students to pick one or just recommend it? If it’s just a recommendation, I’d tell your kids to just keep doing what they want to do. Not that I’m an advocate for breaking policy, but I don’t see how eliminating opportunities for the kids in the community would be helpful.
      I’d be interested in knowing more about this if you’re willing to share (via email rather than the message board). Maybe I can provide some more insight with more background knowledge. This baffles me.

  77. Sarah Woods George

    I totally agree. My brother starting playing sports in 3rd grade. He was a multi-sport athlete all through elementary middle and high school. He went to Ohio State to high jump. He ended up a decathlete and won the Big 10 decathlon championship in 2009. All of his skills from the different sports he played helped contribute to his success.

  78. Alexander C

    This message should not only be directed toward parents and players, but to coaches as well. We have high school coaches who give kids a hard time for playing other sports and even threaten to pull them from the starting lineup of they miss off-season workouts and such. Another issue with coaches is that some simply run poor programs. Our daughter, a basketball player, loves to play volleyball. It’s sort of a vacation from the basketball regular season and travel ball. However, the volleyball coach demands very little conditioning and requires very little of them in practice. At the same time, she insists that those who also play basketball refrain from participating in basketball open gym and light conditioning that takes place late during volleyball season. As a result, the basketball players are out of shape and sluggish at the beginning of the season. Their competition is not and it take our girls weeks to get into a rhythm. Our daughter was the first to notice the difference. Recruiters we’ve spoken with don’t mind her playing volleyball at all…but they want to see how it enhances her skill sets on the basketball court, not the opposite. Unless there’s a new volleyball coach next year, I’m inclined to have her focus on one sport.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Yeah, there are always some other problems. I tend to speak from an ideal standpoint, which I know isn’t the reality in most places. In our district, I try to have to multi-sport conversation with our coaches as often as possible; I think that most of them are encouraging kids to cross train (although I know I don’t have a full staff buy-in). As to the other part of it, your daughter can still manufacture some type of workout during practice even if the coach isn’t focusing on it. I’m assuming that the volleyball coach is running some kind of drills during practice, so it’s important for your daughter to do those at a high intensity (as much so as possible, at least).
      Those are very real problems, though. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  79. Mike

    Serious Question: (I am not disagreeing, and I love the article but) What about the XC runners looking for a scholarship? They only get good exposure with both XC and Track. To my surprise my son is a phenomenal distance runner, and has set a few state records but if he wants a scholarship he would need to have dual exposure in both XC and track, how do I balance him with additional sports if his goal is to achieve the next level?

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Great question. Before I start with an answer, I want to redirect you to this previous post (click here).
      OK – that said, I would say that your son is already, to some extent, a multi-sport athlete. The distance training that he would engage in during the fall for XC would/should be slightly different than some of the interval training he’s using for the distance events in spring track (although, yes, both are distance running). If he was looking for another sport in our district, I would point him towards our swimming team in the winter. (I’m saying this knowing that becoming a competitive swimmer may not be an immediate possibility.) The low impact cardio workouts from the swim team would certainly assist him as a distance runner while keeping him competitive in an individual based competition. Outside of that, basketball would help train him to be explosive and would develop multi-directional movement patterns; hockey would do the same thing in a slightly different manner. My point being that any winter sport would help him cross train athletic ability while changing the repetitive impact of straight line running.
      Now, IF (IF!) he has already been identified as a college prospect by college coaches, and IF (IF!) his passion is running and running at that level, I don’t see anything wrong with sticking with just XC and T&F. He could still build in rest periods in the winter to supplement weight training and be pretty content and prepared. But, again, I say this only IF he knows that running at the next level is guaranteed and only IF he has no real interest in any winter sports.
      I appreciate the feedback; thank you for reading!

      1. Mike

        Thank you, I did not mention that he is an 8th grader who has already surpassed most of the Varsity runners in the area. at invitationals and even the USATF JO Nationals. he is a very competitive Soccer player and All star Basketball player as well. that is why I had the question. But my other question (which is very hard to answer) is we have spoken to D-III coaches and they said with his progression he would be a prospect for D-I or DIaa. Do i push for him to give up spring soccer for track or just let him play soccer?

        1. highschoolsportsstuff

          Lots of things to factor in there…and to clarify, this just my opinion!
          As an 8th grader, let him stay active in everything he wants to stay active in: XC in the fall, basketball in the winter, and something in the spring. As a public school AD, my first question would be whether spring soccer is school based or club based (since I’ll always default to a school based program, but I’m biased). If they are both school based programs, let him decide which one he wants to do. If he does have a future in XC/T&F, he may enjoy staying active in soccer as long as possible. Despite what recruiters are saying, though, I’d caution against putting him on any type of college plan right now. As an 8th grader, he’s a long ways away from turning that potential into an offer, so I’d suggest finding out what he wants to do then letting him do it! The biggest component is letting him decide what he wants to stay active in. If you, as a parent, or any of his coaches push him into extra running that he doesn’t want to do, he becomes a candidate for early burn out. Good luck!

  80. LeVearne

    I was a 3 sport athlete in junior high and high school and we have 2 children who play 2 and 3 sports which they live and enjoy. Each sport helps the other. We continually get told that our kids will have to eventually chose 1 sport. We say rubbish and ridiculous. We will continue to support our kids in sports. Of course school comes first. Great article. Thanks so much.

  81. PennLawyer

    I very much enjoyed your post. When I was growing up, back in the 50’s, there were NO teams/organized sports for girls in grade school, high school or college. In grade school we had 1/2 hour morning recess and another 1/2 hour tacked on to our lunch period(no cafeteria – we all brown-bagged it). In the girls’ section of the playground (actually, a blocked off street – the boys got the real playground) we played softball and dodgeball – with no instruction or adult supervision. The school provided balls & bats – no mitts. No school buses, and families were one car, which Dads drove to and from work so we rode our bikes to and from school – weather permitting, If it was too snowy or rainy, we dressed accordingly & walked. Not a single overweight kid in the class. BUT, I lived in a riverfront house, with a dock and a boat. In summers my brothers and I water-skied nearly every day. We walked 1.5 miles to the community pool to swim. Three seasons of the year, I rode horse-back In winter the whole town was out ice-skating on the then frozen river. In summer we played tennis (didn’t even really know the rules) at the park down the street. University offered no intramural sports for men or women, and there were no opportunities for athletic activity in its urban setting.
    Fast forward to the 80’s. My 3 kids all played soccer in jr. high and high school. Oldest dtr. played women’s soccer (they call it football) at University College Dublin, in addition to cross-country horseback riding/jumping, and graduated with honors. My son (HS valedictorian & named to the all-county soccer team), went on to Yale, where he played JV his freshman year, and varsity his Soph. & Junior years. His senior year he switched to intra-house frisbee so he’d have more time to concentrate on his studies. He graduated summa cum laude. Youngest dtr. played soccer in h.s. & ran track in college, along with being dorm pres. & DJ on the college station.
    Each went on to 1 or more graduate degrees, successful careers and are still active in (age-appropriate) athletics. I think the idea of scholar-athlete is a great one. And I wish I could get in touch with my kids’ coaches to thank them for the encouragement and inspiration they provided to my kids.

    One more point which hasn’t been raised. Lots of the kids you coach come from single parent households. I was a single Mom – the kids’ Dad put in an appearance maybe 1 or 2x a year. So their male coaches, whether they were aware of it or not, were father figures – and that’s very important Don’t know if you coaches are aware of how much some words of approval or encouragement means to a kid – it can make such a difference in their self-confidence!
    So on behalf of all the single moms out there, thanks!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Thank you for sharing your experience. Those are the types of successful people that we hope are involved and created in our programs.
      Specific to your last paragraph, I have posted a couple times about the importance of our coaches in the kids’ lives. You can read those here and here.
      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

  82. Clint lynch

    i totally agree…. Let kids play for fun and to be part of a team that they grew up with in town….if they are good enough, they will get to where they should be whether they play 3 sports or one.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Absolutely true. College coaches are paid to find the kids, not the other way around. If a kid is good enough, he/she will be found (generally speaking). Thank you for the comment!

  83. Jim Hensley

    As a former high school and later college football coach I agree completely with the multi-sport perspective in recruiting. I saw my grandson, a four sport athlete originally recruited as a sophomore for football by dozens of D1 schools, wind up being recruited for track and field after knee injuries ended the football interest. His college TF coach saw his size, strength, speed and agility and believed all that could transfer to throwing at the D2 collegiate level. It has, he was all-conference as a freshman. BTW, he was also a high school National Honor Society member despite being legally deaf.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Fantastic example! This is one of my speaking points. When one thing doesn’t work out the way it was “intended,” it’s nice to have other opportunities available. Thank you for sharing.

  84. Alvaro R. Bridges

    Play all sports you can while you can. Did someone say Ohio St had a bunch of center fielders playing wide receiver, corners and safety? Some played soccer, ran track, wrestled and stuff…. Best years of your life! Tear it up! You will regret it if you don’t.

  85. Cynthia Rimko

    I could not agree with this article more. I am a physical therapist and have been for over 22 years. We see the results of kids of all ages specializing too quickly. Parents can also pressure kids early thinking early on of college scholarships. I am also the mother of two boys that play three sports each.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Yes! Here are the stats on college scholarship (click here), and I’ll devote a separate post in a couple weeks to the physical effects of early specialization. Thank you for provided your feedback.

  86. Charles Hardage

    I went to a small private school my Dad was the head football coach and A/D as well I played football,basketball,baseball,and ran track.Went to Liberty University on a football scholarship played all 4 years but was actually a better basketball player than football but fewer scholarships given in basketball.So I went with football but really missed basketball.But no complaints football was good to me.No doubt benefited playing all 4 sports from 7-12 grade.Miss it all now but wonderful memories.

  87. Jodi

    I’m glad you wrote this because I have a son who is a Freshman. He made varsity soccer JV basketball and trying out for baseball in a month. He is on a swim team in the summer. He maintains so far a 3.95 in honors classes. I said to my husband don’t you think it’s time to focus on one sport for college and my husband said why? He should continue his passion of playing every sport he wants to. Each sport offers things to learn in coordination. I thought he was crazy until I saw this. Thanks for publishing this it helps! He also is the punter and kicker for football and I’m going to let him do it all and have a wonderful time doing it!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Excellent decision! I’m happy that I could give some direction. As long as he’s enjoying being a part of all of them, let him have at it! Thank you for sharing your experience.

  88. Nancy

    Absolutely love your post. As the mother of four student athletes (now adults), our family totally believed in playing multiple sports. Over the years, youth through college, our 2 sons and 2 daughters played: baseball, softball, volleyball, soccer, gymnastics, track, cross country. They all played three sports for most of their high school years. They also learned to play instruments, participated in school musicals, served on student council, National Honor Society, Student Ambassadors, Key Club, etc… My point is that they ended up well-rounded persons all employed in the fields in which they received their college/post-graduate degrees. Being very involved taught them skills they needed to succeed in college and in their chosen careers.

    Over the years we saw many kids who specialized in one sport either be burned out before they graduated from high school or have such serious injuries that they could no longer compete. Growing bodies need diverse activity.

    Thank you for sharing such important information.

  89. Jo Strong

    It has been our experience with our two sons that the coach INSISTS you dedicate to ONE sport. Won’t work around schedules, won’t collaborate with other coaches. Scheduled mandatory workouts/ lifting during off season, camp during summer. Pretty much ruined the love .

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      That’s exactly the experience that we hope to avoid. When I’ve heard about our coaches leaning towards this type of behavior, I try to address it head on. It stinks that your sons had that kind of experience – just another example of why we need to push for this cultural change. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  90. Chuck

    These athletes that Urban Meyer is recruiting are like the Supermen of HS sports. Of course they most likely played other sports besides football, they were the best athletes in the school, town, district…whatever the pool. Take your average HS football player, Urban Meyer is not recruiting him. He is 5′ 10″, 170 lbs, and runs a 5.4 40 yd dash. He better work hard at one sport because that’s probably the only chance he is going to have to make a team. I know this because I was one of those guys and my two boys were a lot like me. I couldn’t have made my HS’s basketball, baseball, soccer,… maybe the track team in the weight events and probably the wrestling team, but I had no interest in swapping sweat with another dude. I did make the football team and was decent enough to play in HS and three years in college. I guess my point is that this article doesn’t address the fact that the guys Urban Meyer is recruiting are very much unlike 99% of HS football players and were probably the biggest fastest most talented of the top 1% so why wouldn’t they be multi sport athletes.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      The Urban Meyer chart was simply a catalyst for the conversation. You’re correct in saying that the athletes he’s recruiting aren’t like our regular athletes, but there is a trickle down effect to all divisions. For the majority of average high school football players who aren’t going to get recruited by DI (or any – see here) colleges, the benefits of multi-sport participation are even greater. While I can appreciate that there is a percentage of athletes, yourself included, who feel like specialization earned a spot on a college team, that isn’t true for the majority of athletes. I could actually counter your singular experience with mine. I was multiple sport HS athlete who was lucky enough to walk on and play multiple sports at an NAIA college. Had I specialized in any one sport in high school, it would have been basketball…which wouldn’t have been good since football turned out to be the best sport for me in college. On top of that, I had the opportunity to run a couple years of track and play a year of baseball, which lead me to learning how much I really enjoyed coaching baseball. While we could match singular examples for a long time, my point was simply that there are a lot of reasons for the majority of athletes to avoid specialization.
      I understand that this certainly isn’t a “one size fits all” theory, but I’m hoping to reach the masses. Thank you for sharing your experience!

      1. John

        If you are athletically gifted and can play three sports this is true. For many athletes this is not the case. An average athlete playing three sports in the end will be average. These athletes need the extra work and reps in order to become above average. I was a product of focusing on one sport and that was the only way I was able to reach a high level. Coaches have to understand that athletics are moving in this direction and have to adapt. Parents have options now and if coaches don’t start a feeder system at a younger age parents will gravitate toward those programs that do start earlier. Finally, most college coaches don’t recruit at high school games as much. Most recruit at AAU, JO or other non school programs because you get the best of the best competing against each other.

        1. highschoolsportsstuff

          Sure – but you’re speaking about specific kids whereas I’m speaking about the masses. If only 6% of kids end up playing college sports (and only 3% of those on scholarship – see here), why would we create and promote a system that focuses on that population? I’m in the business of educational based athletics, so I’m going to create and support a system that benefits the majority of kids (click here). Most kids with the talent to play at the college level will still get that opportunity if they are multi-sport (yes, there are exceptions, but college coaches are paid to find these kids), but look at the number of kids who would lose a ton of benefits if we’re promoting specialization. It would be tough for me to look at our John Q. Public hyping my educational based athletics program if my system was tailored to the handful of kids who *might* get a chance to play after high school.
          I appreciate the dialogue!

          1. John

            You can’t say one is better than other because there are athletes from both groups that have succeeded in life. Teaching young athletes to excel and reach the highest level they can is part of creating a well rounded athlete. I was in a minor sport. I was dedicated to it year round and did not receive scholarship money, but the experiences I had were priceless. If an athlete wants to focus on one sport and become the best they can be and have fun doing it their is nothing wrong with that. From a school coaches and AD view I understand that their programs are suffering because if those three sport kids are focused on one sport their program my suffer. This genie is out of the bottle and the coaches and AD’s have to adapt. It’s not about what the high school coach or AD wants it’s what the individual athlete wants.

          2. highschoolsportsstuff

            I understand and agree with what you’re saying. I’m speaking from the standpoint of the majority of people I hear from in my AD office. With a very few exceptions (people like yourself included), the students/parents that I have spoken to after they’ve specialized have had one of two reactions: (1) the kid burned out, got tired of the sport, and quit it all together, or (2) the kid stuck with the sport, didn’t get the scholarship he/she was chasing, and now regrets not being involved in more stuff. I’m not saying that there aren’t people like you who specialized, didn’t get a scholarship, and still enjoyed their experience; I know there are former athletes that fit that description. I’m just relating that most of the people who have shared their experiences with me don’t fit that description.
            And to your last comment, absolutely! The benefits of multi-sport participation are negated if the athlete doesn’t want to be in the sport in the first place.

  91. Eric M

    Totally agree. The shame is that so many club sports and “specialist” coaches are encouraging specialization very early – because at $100 an hour for private sessions, they make great money. My daughter’s chosen sport is soccer, but she gets so much mobility and hand-eye coordination from tennis and basketball that help her in the net. But the challenge of balancing these sometimes overlapping seasons with her school work (straight A’s) teaches her balance, planning, and how to use her time efficiently. Preparation for the life beyond sports is important too.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Absolutely correct! You may enjoy this post from earlier (click here). Club sports that are run mostly by parents and/or community members looking to win games and get kids ready for the next level often miss out on those educational based athletics opportunities. Thank you for sharing your insight.

  92. LesK

    I so AGREE! I just wish the sports programs and all coaches understood this. Soccer (as many other sports) has become a year round sport, the kids get about 4 weeks off in the summer. Not that there are practices every day, but it limits what you can do as a family as well as participation in other sports. If you listen to the experts they tell you not to specialize. The PTs and Drs tell you that you are more prone to injury if you specialize, but the coaches and clubs require it if you want to play. Soccer is my daughters first love in sports, yet she is a great all around athlete, I really don’t want her to lose that, because I too agree that multi sport athletes are all around better athletes, and can have fun in a different way playing their non specialized sport. Why are clubs and coaches basically forcing kids and families to “choose their sport” at age 8!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I agree with you the whole way. We try to communicate this coordination with our high school coaches, but the club coaches and seasons are out of my control. I actually just received an email this morning about a parent trying to organize a travel basketball team that will take our middle school kids away from their middle school team for the last two weeks of their basketball season through most of the spring. The most we can do is continue pushing the info out to parents and students. Thank you for your support!

      1. O

        I am a 2 sport athlete in college and I have played soccer and softball practically my whole life, although I played baseball from when I was 4 until I was 10 then switched to softball. I played club soccer from ages 8 until 17 and I can tell you that there are clubs out there who are accepting of their athletes doing other activities and having a normal life. If this club in particular has a strict focus policy, I would consider switching to another club that is accepting because the commitment already is a lot to handle, especially for an 8 year old. However, I must caution that you will face coaches who won’t give an inch but you must work with them to get your child the ultimate help with their skills, fuel their passion for whatever they want to pursue, and just making sure your child is happy. I worked with my coaches as soon as I was old enough and they appreciated that I was up front with everything.

  93. I agree with a multi sport approach on elementary and first 3 years of secondary schools and a more specialization on grade 12 and college.
    I am also certified as a Coach Conditioning Periodization for Sports with Tudor Bompa Institute and I also coach martial arts as combative sports not tradition.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I agree with you for that small percentage of athletes who can compete in college (click here). If a kid has an offer in hand as a senior and wants to focus on that sport in order to competitively prepare for a college team, I won’t argue against it. My issue is with the kids who specialize way early *in the hopes of* getting that scholarship. Those are the disappointed kids and parents that I hear from most often. Thank you for sharing your insight!

  94. Charles Henry

    All college scholarships should be through graduation, regardless of impact on the team or injury. Only otherwise lost through legal action/conviction of a crime.

  95. Bill

    Recently, I learned one of the greatest values of playing multi-sports that had never occurred to me before.

    As a single sport basketball player, I was normally the number one scoring option on my high school and college teams and was only subbed for when I was tired.

    Now I’m out of college and recently joined a soccer team to stay in shape. On this team, I’m good enough to contribute but not shine.

    Beyond teaching me humility, it has also taught me the emotions of the little used bench player.

    Urban Meyer would no doubt love to have a star football recruit who is a role player on his high school basketball player. Regardless of whether or not they become a college standout, the athlete will be a better teammate on Ohio State’s football team for having had the experience of playing a non-starring role on his high school basketball team.

  96. craig

    While I agree that multisport stars should be attractive at d1 level, I think it’s can actually hurt recruiting. I have personal experience with a son who was multisport and president of nationally ranked showchoir. He could not gain the weight to be a legit d1 O lineman due to multisports. Had d1 offers in track, took a d2 in football, then grew to 285 lbs within 4 months of focusing only on football in college.so multisport did Not help with recruiting.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Thank you for sharing that experience. Two thoughts immediately popped to mind when reading this – (1) Focusing on football in high school still wouldn’t have guaranteed that weight gain nor the D1 scholarship; it would have guaranteed missing the experience of playing those other sports and performing in the choir. (2) Since our educational based athletics programs services all kids, I find it tough to focus our programs and philosophies on the small percentage (click here) of kids who are headed to college athletics. College coaches are paid to find the kids they need to help their teams. I’m hoping that your son still enjoyed (or enjoys) his time playing D2 football. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

  97. PDub

    My son played 3 sports until 5th grade. He played 2 sports from 6th-8th. He is a freshman now. But he has a passion for soccer and spent the entire summer with only a soccer ball. The basketball was never touched, even after a week of basketball camp. He clearly has chosen the sport he loves and I allowed him to join a much more competitive club soccer team. Because of this club commitment, he did not have time to tryout for HS basketball. He did not want to miss soccer practices and fitness training over the winter because of basketball. It would have been way to hard to juggle after school basketball, then soccer training, then homework. He and I talked it over many times and he resoundingly came back to wanting to give club a try this year and it seemed too much to throw basketball into the mix. Track is something he’s never participated in before and want to try this spring, although the same problem with juggling HS and club commitments will occur. I would have loved for him to be a three sport athlete. But I also can’t overlook the fact that he lost a passion to play his second sport and he needed time to be a student too.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I agree that kids need to want to play other sports. The benefits of being a multi-sport athlete can be lost if the student doesn’t enjoy playing the sport. The conversations that I have with kids in the same situation as your son is that I’ll support their decision to play only one sport if that’s what they truly want to do, but I’ll also point out that the earlier and longer they leave a sport, the tougher it will be to come back in the future. Thank you for sharing that experience!

      1. JM

        I read this article as being about parents pushing kids to specialize. If it’s what your kid himself wants, that’s a different matter. Sounds like he’s done plenty of “multi-sporting.” Good luck to him in soccer!

  98. I love this topic and I love the content on this post by Jenny Stafford. This is absolutely true. College coaches want multi-sport atheletes. Pro coaches want to draft the multi-sport athlete. A young athlete grows so much in confidence when he has success in other sports. The athlete then expects to be the one who makes big critical plays in the biggest most competitive contests. It is a great preventer of burnout in sport. Coaches who preach specialization are actually not doing the player a service. They are actually being extremely selfish in forcing the athlete to only work on one sport all year around. “It is not what you get for playing, but it is what you become because you did it.” Our job as a coach is to make men out of boys, and playing for another coach with exposure to other teammates and discipline and motivational methods helps the player to grow in his social skills and his self confidence. I have coached Football, Baseball, and Wrestling in my 49 year career of coaching. Believe me that if any coach tries to encourage your athlete to just play one sport “Just Say No, He is NOT your Friend.”

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Great reply – thank you for sharing that experience. During our pre-season talks, I share a quote from Tony Dungy: “…if all you’re about is winning, it’s not really worth it. I’m after things that last.” We try to draw the distinction between what will benefit the kid at this exact moment vs. what will benefit the kid forever. Too often, coaches are coaching to hang banners and pad their resume; we try to keep the focus on educational based athletics. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

  99. Lisa

    My biggest complaint is that kids are specializing. But why? They want to make a team, it is important. They want to play sports and belong. Problem is in most canadian schools we take a top few athletes for each team and tell the remaining students that make up a large % to go find something your unimportant. We want you to live active healthy lifestyles but we have no time for you to play rec sports or to invest In Club ball teams. We need a new model for middle school and high school sports

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I only know a little bit about the Canadian high school athletic structure, but I know enough to know that it’s quite a bit different than ours. I don’t know where that change would come from, or how long it would take. From what I know, your high school teams are more similar to our club teams (I’ve heard similar stories about the structure of teams in Australia.) Tough spot for the kids… Thank you for sharing that knowledge!

  100. Bob Niebuhr

    I couldn’t agree more! I’ve been a volunteer coach in several different sports and the kids get a much broader perspective of what it takes to be a good athlete. They not only use different muscle and techniques, but learn different strategies and how to make better decisions.

  101. Bruce

    Great article. As the father of a D III swimmer the only thing I’m disappointed in is the phrase “down to Division III” like it is below the other levels. I think too many parents and athletes think an athletic scholarship is the only way to go and that D III is below consideration. Division III allows kids to continue playing the sport(s) they love, and yes, some continue to play multiple sports at the collegiate level. They work just as hard as the other levels and are truly doing it for the love of the sport. I would love to see an article touting the benefits of playing Division III sports. Keep up the good work.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I didn’t mean that in a derogatory way. I’m a former NAIA athlete who loved my experience, so I could talk all day long on the benefits of playing at the D3-NAIA type level. The number of athletes at the D3-NAIA levels trumps those at the D1-D2 levels, too, so there are WAY more opportunities for kids to continue their careers at those levels. Thank you for the comment and the support!

  102. Michele Trevor

    I couldn’t agree and disagree more. First I disagree because my daughter is a level 8 gymnast and doing quite well. So well in fact that we moved from Atlanta, Georgia to Dallas, Texas so she could train in one of the top gymnastic programs in the country. My daughter has dreams of possibly representing the US in the 2020 Olympics. She trains 34 hours a week and between her homeschool and gymnastics each week, there isn’t time for anything else. She is almost 100% guaranteed a college scholarship at the very least if she can make it to level 10 as a senior (colleges are starting to watch her now at age 11 and can talk to her when she is a freshman I believe & give a verbal offer in 10th grade). To me this dream she is chasing and realistic and attainable if she keeps doing what she is doing as some of her teammates are already on the US National team. So there is a real possibility for her to do the same. Of course there are no guarantees in life but she is truly happy training in the gym day in and day out and does not regret not being able to play any other sports…She says she will play other sports one day after she is done with gym – she is thinking she will take up running like her mom does.

    Now with regards to my 9 year old son I totally agree. My son is playing football, select basketball and was recently asked to play on a select baseball team. The football coaches seemed upset during football season that I didn’t take my son out of basketball but honestly basketball has been the best conditioning for my son and is teaching him better movement with the ball…In fact one of my son’s basketball teammates father was a professional football player and he said he can tell my son is a good football player by the way he carries his body on the basketball court. I honestly think my son is a better football and basketball player because he IS doing two sports…Now we just started up with baseball and he has not played in 2 years. The baseball coach wanted to make sure he would be able to keep up with the select baseball team he was going to be on. He tried my son out with the team for about an hour and at the end of the tryout the baseball coach said he was impressed with how strong his pitching arm was and how quickly he picked up on baseball. My son is a quarterback in football and it seems his strong arm is going to serve him well on the baseball field. My son had his first baseball practice tonight and we were talking to the other dads about the other sports the boys all played. We realized then that although this was a select baseball team, all the boys played many different sports and were not specializing in just baseball. This made us feel good as we are doing the same thing and think our son will turn out just fine in whatever sport he may end up specializing in (if he ever does)…I think what’s most important is the part that mentions that for a lot of kids, middle school and high school can be there last time they ever get to play a sport as they may not good enough to get a scholarship – what a shame if they don’t at least take the opportunity to play and enjoy each sport in high school. I was one of those kids in fact. I was a good athlete – not a great one and loved doing gymnastics, running indoor and outdoor track, swimming and diving. In fact sports were my favorite part of high school and I miss the variety and rush it gave me each season as I played something new. During college I started running for fun to keep in shape and this became a lifelong passion which I still do today….But I still really miss doing the other things but am so grateful for the days when I got to do those other things and look back at the awesome memories it gave me 🙂

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Thank you for sharing the experiences of both your son and daughter. It’s encouraging to hear that the club programs in your community are supportive of multi-sport athletes; that’s the type of communication that is needed more often!
      Gymnastics (along with swimming and tennis) has probably been the toughest sport for me to discuss. I can’t and won’t disagree at all with your standpoint. The only way your daughter would have a chance to advance would be to specialize, but what happens if she’s only of the MANY kids who specializes but never has a chance to advance? I understand and empathize with the Catch 22 that’s presented; it’s a tough spot to be in. Hopefully, regardless of the outcome, your daughter will be happy with how she spent her time and the experience she had in gymnastics.
      Thank you, again, for sharing!

    2. Mary

      I was looking for a gymnastics comment and I totally agree! It is usually both detrimental and dangerous to completely take time off, and it’s not realistic to try to do other sports.

      I was a level 10 and collegiate gymnast, and my mom was always worried I was missing out on normal kid things. I would not change my experiences at all. I loved gymnastics and training that much was just what it took to be the best I could be. If she’s interested, I would suggest signing her up for a youth track meet; winning is fun and I don’t think gymnasts get enough chances see how crazy in shape and talented they are!

      1. highschoolsportsstuff

        I discussed gymnastics specifically in some comments on this post as well as my follow-up post yesterday. I always caution people to be careful about gauging their experience in hindsight. Would you feel the same way about your specialization experience if you hadn’t been able to compete in college gymnastics and your high school team was the end of the road? Maybe yes, maybe no…tough to say without having had it actually happen. The problem occurs when we encourage our young athletes to specialize under the promise that those goals can be reached…because the reality is that most of them won’t reach that goal.
        Thank you for sharing your experience! And I like your last comment; I’ve seen several gymnasts have a ton of fun in track & field.

        1. Mary

          I see your point that my n=1, and I read your follow up! I still don’t think you understand gymnastics. I didn’t stay in year round because I wanted to get a scholarship. I stayed in year round because that’s the only way to maintain the strength and muscle memory to learn the skills required for the sport I love.

          I think it definitely requires some constant self-assessment by both the parent and the athlete. Do I like this? Is it worth it to me? It can get difficult and I think it’s especially important for parents to stay supportive and objective, which is hard when you have “invested” so much. On that note, I think many gymnasts are happier when they don’t consider it an investment but rather a passion.

          1. highschoolsportsstuff

            Sounds to me like you’re right on point. I won’t disagree with a kid who’s involved with anything year round if that’s what he/she wants to do.
            Nobody’s ever claimed that I’m a “gymnastics guy,” but my previous school district was gymnastics crazy. I get that the time off slows development and that a season away from the sport slows down advancement.
            Your last paragraph is dead-on for any sport. I’ve written about that investment before, so it’s good to hear your perspective.

  103. eric

    So I think we ALL agree that playing multiple sports is a good thing BUT who really only plays one sport nowadays??!?!!!?!! I think this is becoming a non-issue when articles are written about this like it’s a big revelation or something and for the purpose of pointing a finger at kids that specialize in one sport. Enough already.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Without debating what’s happening all around the world, I’ll just share my recent experiences as an AD. I’m the district level AD for a district that houses two high schools, each has roughly 1100 students. We are big schools in North Dakota, but by no means big schools when compared to other cities outside of ND. Of those 2200ish students, somewhere in the neighborhood of 600-700 of them participate in athletics for us (it’s a difficult number to pin down because of the way we tally participation for our state HSAA). In the month since Christmas, I’ve received notice or inquiry from ELEVEN kids discussing various questions and items regarding specialization. The eleven have come from tennis, hockey, volleyball, basketball, and soccer. Of those eleven, ALL ELEVEN made a mention of chasing a college scholarship at some point in our conversation. If you take the time to look at schools and teams as an average, you’ll find that there are still many, many kids who are specializing. While I’m not against specialization as a whole (because I believe there are some valid reasons for it), I hate seeing kids wreck their high school experience by chasing a dream that only attainable by 3% of the athletic population (see here). I’ll take the flip side of your own comment: If it wasn’t happening, I wouldn’t be taking the time and effort to write about it…nor would anybody else.
      I appreciate your comments; thank you for taking the time to read the post!

  104. I agree that kids should not focus on one sport. As an elementary p.e. teacher for 19 years, I like to hear college and professional coaches saying this. Some of my older students think the only game is basketball and don’t want to try other sports and leisure games. I have always believed in teaching and introducing all sports.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Absolutely…and it’s important for kids to know that the possibility of earning academic scholarships are far greater than athletic scholarships. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

  105. John Young

    I disagree. As a college coach and ex-professional baseball player I think you have to take into consideration that Ohio State and all top D1 programs are getting the best athletes this country has to offer. Urban Meyer only has to recruit to get the best of the best, but no matter what athlete signs to play football at OSU they are going to be unreal athletes that can play multiple sports. As you do down the ladder the athletes are not as gifted so they may have to work harder to compete in college or just maybe be a walk on at a major D1 program. That player on the bubble may need to not be multi sport athlete in his high school years as to focus developing his or her skills to play at the highest level he or she desires. I’ve seen both sides of this as an athlete, as a high school coach and now a college coach. It simply is not as simple as the diagram on the picture!!!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Agreed that it’s not as simple, and agreed that Coach Meyer’s athletes are special athletes. I was simply using that chart as a catalyst for the post’s content.
      As a college coach, you’re already aware that only a very small percentage of students can play college baseball (click here), so why would we push kids to specialize in an attempt to chase that dream? I’m running an educational based athletics program that attempts to service the needs of every athlete in our buildings, not just the very small percentage who may have the chance to play at the college level. As a college coach, I understand that you are more concerned about their talent as a baseball player than whether or not they played many sports…but do you care about the multitude of kids who focused on nothing except baseball and still weren’t good enough for your team? Those are the kids whose experiences I’m trying to fix.
      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment! Your insight is much appreciated.

  106. I think your absolutely right that student athletes, should be involved in more than one sport. I see that a lot here in Detroit.
    Are father Had us Engage at the Ymca early on playing every sport to table tennis to hockey, we where on the swim team it carried over Into my adult life. I have a youth track club called Motorcity elite track club. It’s a must that every student athlete perticapates in other sports, especially learning how to swim, scoccer, Reqeball, wrestling, tennis, etc. for the reason you mention in the Article hand & eye coordination, to help build core strength, exposivness, power. To enhanced you’re speed, I teach my Student/ athletes you should get faster each round or better from week to week. I know it help me an my siblings the morjortey of us went to a major University to play sports. I read an some years back that the old ball coach former Heisman trophy winner from the sixties Steve spurrier, donate million dollars to sout Carliona track program. He said ” I know what side my bread is butter on” now that’s achievement For sports.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Thank you for sharing your experience and support. There are definitely some crossover benefits from all activities.

  107. klmet

    But what if my football player participates in boy scouts, community service, leadership, church activities, has a job (valuable for all the same reasons as athletics and in my experience more valuable to ones future prosperity) plus he’s committed himself to hd football which claims 11.25 months of the year, engulfs family vacations and becomes the priority over everything because he doesnt want to let down his team or look soft to the coaches??? Any umiversity that is so one-sided to not consider all aspects of an athletes cpntributions to their school and the betterment of society doesn’t deserve my child OR our money. We loved our football program and have all wondered at what cost was worth it? Football drained so much out of him all season that he realistically needs to concentrate on keeping his grades higher the rest of the year to maintain his gpa. He was a promising jumper AND runner that was drained by fb because he had other important aspects of his life he didnt want to sacrifice.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      It sounds to me like your son is already involved in a ton of other stuff – which is great! – but that other stuff appears to be on top of year-round football – which I struggle with. I understand that multi-sport participation isn’t a “one size fits all” policy, and I believe that there are many benefits to participating in those activities your son is engaged in. If your son is enjoying year round football and understands the difficulty in making a college roster (click here), then there’s no reason to change. My concerns are more rooted in the kids who specialize in one sport then look back at their time wishing or wondering, “What if…” If your son doesn’t fit that mold, then all is good already. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

  108. cody

    When I was in middle school all I wanted to do was play football. The highschool wrestling coach and middle school football coach convinced me to give wrestling a shot said it would help my football skills. Ended trying it out wrestling became my favorite sport and great accelerated my football techniques. It taught me many lessons made me a better athlete and gave me determination drive and ambition. I come from a state that loves wrestling(MN) so my senior year when I took 5th in state at wrestling was aamazing. I would never have gotten there without that push so long ago.

  109. There are so many variables that go into a decision of whether to play one sport beginning with specific player goals, school size, and inherent athletic affinity. The variables in each athletes situation are boundless. While it may be true that the Ohio State University recruits play many sports, this is MORE likely a product of the environment the recruits come from than the athletes themselves. Multiple sport play works for the truly gifted athlete in the right set of circumstances but, for most, excelling at one or two sports is a better investment of their time than mediocrity at 3 or more activities. A graph like, although it may be accurate for OSU, this is a very misleading portrayal of circumstances and opportunities available to most athletes. I could write hundreds of pages and point to thousands of examples from my own recruiting processes that rebuke this single graph. For most, a little knowledge, like this graph, is dangerous.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I agree with that. The graph itself was simply a catalyst for the conversation. Coach Meyer’s athletes are the best of the best – a very tiny percentage of what we see in high school athletes. My concern is pushing kids into specialization knowing that most kids won’t play beyond high school (click here). I would find it difficult to run an educational based athletics program for all of our kids if we were encouraging kids to specialize. The number of kids specializing continues to increase across the nation, but the number of roster spots available hasn’t changed. All that specialization has translated into is more disappointed kids who feel like the missed out on other opportunities. Those are the kids’ experiences that I’m trying to avoid.
      Thank you for sharing your insight!

  110. Beeny

    I don’t think this is just limited to sports. What about those athletes that are also in a music program? Gives them the ability to memorize plays, for instance. Or athletes who are on a debate team? Gives them the ability to think quickly on their feet.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I complete agree. Kids can learn all kinds of character traits from music, speech, drama, debate, etc. etc. etc. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

      1. JM

        This article can easily apply to more than sports. My son, the “star athlete” at his school, learned to play chess this year and loves it. He now goes to tournaments when he can. He signs up for the non-competitive level, just to play it more, knowing full well he’ll lose more than he wins. I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder of him for winning at sports than I am for him losing at chess. Seeing a child pursue an activity because HE loves it is a beautiful thing. 🙂

  111. Steve Scaife

    I agree 110 percent….we raised 4 sons, all multi-sport players, besides agreeing with the coaches comments above, something I credit multi sports activity greatly is ….it kept our children out of “Bad Company”.

  112. Russ Werntz

    Ive been saying that my whole life. There are a lot of coaches out there who try to get young athletes to concentrate on their sport only .

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Yes – and to what end? The number of kids specializing hasn’t changed the number of high school or college roster spots that are available for kids. Thank you for your comments!

  113. mndollies

    I agree with you! However, high school coaches don’t always support this. They want the athlete to focus on their sport and aren’t supportive when they overlap. We have always adhered to when it’s football season you show up for all things football, when it’s hockey season then that is your priority. Our experience has been coaches penalizing athletes that aren’t at every practice due to a commitment to another sport.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Unfortunately, I completely agree with you. I try to have those conversations with my coaches as often as possible, and I think we’re doing a good job of sharing kids in our community. Getting high school coaches on board with this is step one. Thank you for your comments!

  114. Paul Farmer

    As an ex-athlete, little league coach of multiple sports, and parent of athletes, I 100% agree with this article. One thing I would like to ad is this, it is not the kids giving up a sport to dedicate to one sport, they are being driven to do this by coaches. This article should be sent to every coach in America.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I agree with you. I try to have this conversation with my coaches as much as possible. I think we’re doing a good job here, but I know we’re still not 100% on board. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

  115. Love the article. I think the injuries, burn out and micro criticism that comes along with single sport athletes is unfortunate.

    I think this theory and perspective is also true in the arts. A musician who plays multiple instruments or an actor who can also sing is more likely to find work after school.

    Good read.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Thank you for the feedback! I like the kids who combine athletics with activities too – lots to be learned from all activities.

  116. Dan

    I understand the philosophy behind multiple sports but it’s not for every kid or family. Could it make them better at one sport? Yes. Those kids play multiple sports for two reasons. Either they are forced by the parents or they are just very athletic to do so. I pick the second mostly and that is why those college recruits look at them. My kids are very good at their sports but have no desire to do more. My daughter is 12 and going into level 8 competitive gymnast. Once meet season is done in April she goes straight into learning new skills for the next level. She has to or won’t get those skills. It is year round if she wants to compete at high level. It has taught her a lot. She is a straight A student. My son is baseball and that is what he does. He refuses to do anything else because he wants to camp, hunt, and fish. He loves the outdoors. He is very good at baseball for being 9. Good pitcher and hitter. He takes October – most of December off to camp and hunt. He’s not giving that up for soccer. His friends are playing soccer every weekend when he’s with me hunting and that is where he wants to be. Loves learning the outdoors from his dad. Mid December he starts his training for baseball to stay ahead of the others and he cross trains with me during off season. She will start cross country this fall and he will when he gets to 8th grade. They are both great distant runners but I believe in waiting on running because of injuries. Running never good when to young. Their mother and I ran so they will be good at that. Basically they love their family time. Do three sports you can forget that. If not at games your at practice!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I agree with you in those cases. As much as I support and encourage multi-sport participation, those benefits are lost if the kids aren’t having fun and/or don’t want to be in the sport. I would never encourage a kid to participate in something he/she has no interest in doing. If you dig through some of the other comments, I’ve discussed gymnastics a little bit. Gymnastics presents quite a Catch 22 for kids, which is unfortunate. I think it’s just important for kids to focus on why they’re in the sport, and to make sure the sport remains as fun as it’s always been.
      Thank you for sharing your experiences!

      1. Dan

        Shel still loves gymnastics after 7 years. She wants to do nothing else. She loves the challenge it gives year after year. She is interestested cross country now after winning a race last fall that the high school put on and that is good with me. Gymnastic coach is good with it and hopes it helps get her to the level she is trying to achieve. That is college. Only thing that worries me is the pounding on her joints from all the gymnastics.

        1. highschoolsportsstuff

          Sounds like she’s enjoying the experience. I’ll blog later about some of the physical detriments of specialization (which you’ve mentioned), and you’ll want to make sure she understands how very difficult it is to get on a college roster (click here). Other than that, working hard, having fun, and learning how to compete are tough goals to argue with. Thanks, again, for sharing!

  117. swim coach

    main problem is not one sport participation. Main problem is smart phones and I pads etc. Athletes are a how in up lacking strength and awareness I’m sure the nutrition is also a bigger factor than specialization. In swimming even water Polo and “seasonal” only swimming are negatives to reaching the top levels. Of course they need many varied sport experiences but

  118. MJ Dillon

    The best high school coaches coach solely for their benefit of their players and understand the value, on many levels, of a being a multi-sport athlete. Hence, they encourage multi-sport participation. Then, you’ll find coaches that are so caught up in their win/loss record and the number of championships they can display in a trophy case that they make coaching about them and not their players. Satisfying their ego becomes more important than the development of their players. These are the coaches who attempt to monopolize the athlete and push for single sport participation. They put undo pressure on their players and/or make them feel guilty if they express a desire to play another sport. Moreover, they’ll attempt to convince their players that the only possible way to play at the next level is to specialize in their sport.

    Yes, winning is important (that’s why we keep score) and coaches should do their very best to create a winning mindset among their players and team. However, winning is not more important than the development of the player. Coaches should have the best interest of each and ever player at heart.

    It’s time athletic directors do their job and get rid of the self-serving coaches, who make high school sports more about them than their players. Their are plenty of coaches who know how to put their players first and still win games!

    Having coached for several years, I can attest that the more sports that you participate in the more well-rounded you become as an athlete and more importantly as a person.

    MJD
    Junior high and high school coach for 30+ years

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I agree on all accounts. You may enjoy some of my previous posts here, here, here, and here. I try to have those conversations with our coaches as often as possible; admittedly, we have a good culture in our community with strong character coaches for the most part. We, like everyone else, still have room to improve.
      Thank you for your comments and your support!

  119. sandman

    I agree that playing multiple sports increase a child ability to be more creative, endure challenges, overcome obstacles, maintain a higher grade point average and once they become an adult they will have the ability to compete for a promotion without cheating in taking someone else’s work for their own. It is event because I once was that child that maintain good grades played baseball, basketball, football, and track in high school. I even went on to college graduated with a masters degree. My child who plays multiple sports and had a 4.87gpa was once hinder by coaches at Frisco High School that refuse to play him order to get him to quit other sports and focus on football. Now my child is at a different school and is enjoying playing multiple sports and continue to maintain a high gpa and have scored on his first act test a 24 and is expect to score higher on his next one.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Unfortunate that his first experience was poor, but I’m glad he found a place where being involved in multiple activities is encouraged. Thank you for sharing that!

  120. football dad

    I intend to share this article with my son.

    My son’s first sport is football. He’s an offensive lineman, and very serious about playing at the next level. He has played football in youth leagues since 6th grade. Prior to that, there was no league for him, as most local leagues were weight limited, and his body type makes it hard for him to make weight (he weighs more than he looks). At the youth level, he has also played basketball and lacrosse.

    Going into 9th grade, he was recruited by a local private high school last year to play football. It turned out to be one of the most miserable experiences he had. He didn’t enjoy his teammates, and he was away from all the friends he grew up with. Very few kids on the team did well academically, which further hurt, because his grades were good enough to land him in honors classes. He sustained a knee injury in practice that kept him away from most of his freshman season. He participated in off-season workouts, but was discouraged from playing other sports, either at the school, or in youth leagues. We decided to take him out and put him back in our very good local public school. Although it hasn’t been a perfect experience, he is much happier there. He had a full sophomore football season. He played both varsity and JV. The Varsity team did OK, but the JV team had a very successful season. He has more time in his day, which allows him to pursue other sports. The coaching staff actively encourages this. One coach wanted him to wrestle. He didn’t want to do that, but that prompted him to play rec league basketball. It keeps him active, and helps him learn how to compete and recover from adversity. I am going to encourage him to try out for lacrosse, which he has enjoyed in the past.

    Count me in the multi sport camp, assuming that academics don’t suffer. We sometimes forget that these are teenagers, and that they should spend these years trying many different things. I think a single-sport focus can lead to burnout. Last year, my son was losing interest in football. Now, he seems to have recovered his love for the game. If you are talented at a sport, by all means, develop your talent, but it’s no good if you aren’t having fun and learning something in the process.

    I’ll add one comment. Football is a sport that will have a lot of participants. Successful football teams frequently owe their success to having depth. Available slots for sports like basketball and baseball are fewer. To a lesser extent, this is also true of lacrosse. The “other” sport doesn’t necessarily have to be for the HS team. Look for a youth rec league for opportunities to play.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Excellent example! The other thing to keep in mind is just how difficult it is to play at the next level (click here). The two reasons we see kids specializing here are either at the coach’s request in an attempt to improve single sport skills to win high school games or the kid/parent in an attempt to chase that elusive college scholarship. We have kids in our community that routinely leave school after their freshmen year to go somewhere else to play Midget hockey – usually in an attempt to “get noticed” by someone at the next level. Most of these kids return to school having a bad experience away from home…just like your son did. That’s part of the message I try to spread around here. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

  121. What about actual studies. What about getting sleep so they can keep going
    I have seen 12 year olds up at 4 or5am and not getting home till 8-9pm then 2-3 hours homework
    by the time they get to highscool thet are burned out. Then you have the ones with injuries needing repeat treatment, protective gear or even surgeries that effect them the rest of their lives

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      My focus is multi-sports over the course of the school year, not at the same time. I’m speaking about playing a fall sport, a winter sport, and a spring sport (or some combination of that). If I’m interpreting correctly, you’re thinking more about stacking sports at the same time which is difficult to do.

  122. I have an idea I’d like to hear from the author and commenters.

    I have been a speed, strength, and conditioning coach for a long time. I’ve trained pros, joes, youth, and adult. I used to train athletes “sports specific.” I would never think of using a “football program” to train a volleyball player. My philosophy has completely changed in the last 4-5 years. Seeing athletes major in one sport I have observed a lack of athletic development. The author and many of the commenters are spot on by identifying the benefits of multi-sport athletes.

    However, we all know it takes thousands of hours and years and years to master a skill. Is the athletic benefit great enough to take a young athlete out of his desired and naturally gifted sport just to develop athleticism? What if the athlete could spend “year round” sport skill time while at the same time developing the desired athleticism, heart, desire, ability to compete, and the multi-functional components identified in this article from participating in multiple sports?

    I will make the arguement these things can be developed in a proper “off-field(ice, court, course) training. I have seen all the above mentioned benefits from multi-sport athletes achieved in the performance training environment. I can hardly call it a weight room any more because we do things like tire throws, rope climbs, tire flips, sled pull and push, bear crawls and crab walks, monkey bars, hand stands and hand stand walks and other gymnastics movements in addition to our regular strength and speed work.

    That’s all I have time for now. Thanks for sharing Mike and I’m looking forward to hearing what y’all have to say about this thought process?

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Yup – I get what you’re saying. Here’s my main problem with encouraging any kid to put all of their focus into training for one thing (click here).

      I run an educational based athletic program with the intent of serving all of our kids. Part of what we preach and try to practice is creating well rounded, good people, with a strong understanding of what their futures probably hold for them (click here).

      In the days before specialization, there were X number of college roster spots available for high school athletes to occupy. Kids did a ton of sports (or some sports and a ton chores!), and the kids who were the best in those sports earned those roster spots. Because the kids had largely done all (or most) of the stuff they wanted to do in high school, they weren’t necessarily let down by not making a college roster (I’m speaking in general; I know there are specific examples that would support the opposite).

      Today, we have a ton of kids specializing in an attempt to earn those same X number of college roster spots. The number of available college roster spots hasn’t increased, but the number of kids actively pursuing those spots has increased exponentially. Eventually, the kids who are the best in that sport are going to earn those roster spots (just like always) whether they specialized or not. The difference is that we now have a ton of kids who have specialized who finish their careers in high school but had expected to continue playing. Is there a chance that a kid could earn one of those roster spots by specializing early? Of course there is, but what if that kid is taking that roster spot away from another kid who specialized? For us in educational based athletics, we service both of those kids, so we have to prepare both of them for the reality of the future.

      I promote multiple sport participation for many reasons. For our top end athletes, it allows their talents to be spread across multiple programs; for our average athletes, it allows them to expand their experiences and cross training beyond their “main” sport; and for our lower end athletes, it gives them the opportunity to have fun doing the stuff they want to do.

      If a kid wants to engage in year-round training for a single sport, I won’t stand opposed; however, I will make sure that kid knows that his time and effort doesn’t guarantee him anything. Thanks for the feedback and the questions; I appreciate your taking the time to read and comment!

  123. Tori

    My husband sent this to me & it made me breathe a sigh of relief. We’ve struggled as parents (from pressure of coaches) as to let our kids be multi-sport athletes or specify in one. Reading this article just confirms what we have thought all along….do as many sports as you can while in mid/high school. Thank you!!

  124. Cassifrass team player

    Overall this was a pretty good article. Whether people agree or disagree on whether kids should need all these sports is up to debate, but i do agree in letting your child be a more rounded student. Letting them being educated physically and mentally , has been the goal for students for a LONG TIME. But i do have a question, i really really wish that marching band was included for a sport. It is a unique sport/activity that lets kids bond as a group and marching while playing an instrument is indeed multi-tasking. Any comments or thoughts??

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Interesting question. From an AD standpoint, we would recognize marching band as an extra-curricular activity if it took place outside of normal school hours, required practice time, and included competitions. That would set it aside from a curricular activity (like concert band) that often practices during a class period for credit. As an AD, my department houses those athletics and activities that are recognized by our High School Activities Association, of which band and choir are included. We have regional and state competitions and performances for soloists, small groups, and large groups, although I don’t believe that anything like that exists for marching bands. In ND, the first step to including this would be to have multiple schools add it and request NDHSAA sponsorship of competitions. I’m not sure what that would look like since our band/choir competitions are currently in late winter/early spring when NOBODY wants to be outside playing a brass instrument! Yours is a really good thought. I agree with your comments about the benefits (much like any sport or activity). The English dork in me just jumped over to dictionary.com to see how “sport” is defined: “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature…” On the surface, I’m not sure that marching band fits that definition, but if there were competitions, I’d struggle to argue that it’s less of a sport than something like golf, maybe? It requires some level of endurance, coordination, etc. This is a really good question.

  125. Noveta

    I agree. When my daughter was visiting colleges to run track, coaches were always interested in what other sports did she play. Coaches said concentrate on what sport the senior year if not actively participating. If one is active in the sport, participate bec the different sports use different muscles

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I agree that there can be some benefit to specialization in the last year or two of high school depending on circumstances.

  126. While I’m not surprised at how many multi sport athletes OSU recruits since they always have an incredible amount of depth when it comes to young players who are well rounded athletes, ESPECIALLY that he’s able to do for the Big 10, it may not be outside of the norm. The graph that I see missing in the post is one from a different university system who may focus on 1 sport athletes, or from coaches/schools who don’t put that in their priorities at all when it comes to recruiting football players. If someone is going to be an elite D1 athlete, the odds that they didn’t play multiple sports growing up (because they were probably naturally good at them) is more than likely small the way it is. The graph may not represent anything that far outside the norm, and if it is off the average numbers, probably not far enough to suggest anything outside of what normal variance on those years could be.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Lots of good points here. I agree that Coach Meyer is recruiting the type of freak athletes who probably excelled in everything they tried growing up. I would also be surprised if these numbers weren’t similar in other programs; this graph was simply the information that was going around social media, so it made for an easy catalyst to start this conversation. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

  127. Aimee

    I agree that multi sports teaches so many things but my question is how do the multi sport athletes concentrate on academic achievement? And does multi sport mean being on a competitive team? I really don’t want to spend my money on competitive traveling teams like soccer, baseball and basketball if my son doesn’t plan on playing those out of high school. Are intramural teams good enough? And what about enjoying a weekend skiing? My son is an awesome skier and he loves it but if he were to play basketball or wresting competitively then skiing goes out the window. Track is a possibility though. My 12 year old wants to play college football and he’s dedicated to the extra weight training and leagues so we spend our money in that area and leave the other sports to recreation. Opinions and thoughts?

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      My very first thought as I came to the end of your comment: make sure you read this. Encourage your son to pursue his goals and to work hard to obtain them, but make sure that he understands that no amount of work and effort will guarantee that he’s part of the 6% who eventually play college sports. If he (and you, as parents!) chooses to focus on just football, he (and you!) needs to be ok with coming to the end of the line at high school graduation knowing that his playing career is over. You’re at the same spot with your son where I often have discussions with hockey parents in our community. Many of our hockey parents are prepared to continue a massive time and money commitment for the purpose of college hockey, but the bare statistics show that most kids don’t get that far. Again, I’m not trying to discourage him from the chase, but make sure he knows that his goal is ultimately to become as good as he can be.
      That said, in response to the first part of your comment, playing any sport at any time is always a good thing! He’s going to use the same motor skills through rec level competition that he would in any organized league. He’ll miss some of the formal instruction, but the pure athletic benefits will still be present.
      Thank you for your reply!

  128. Charles Grimmett

    Playing more sports in high school is fun for me it’s still helps me today I ran track cross country and played football . ,Even at 41 years old It helped me to play basketball volleyball bicycle and lift weights . Plus play golf plus occasionally softball . Doing all that has also help me to keep injuries away and to have fun and a better quality of health.

  129. Multiple Sport Athletes

    Your article focuses on football coaches recruiting multiple sport athletes. Have you crossed any information regarding baseball organizations or opinions of baseball managers recruiting multiple sport athletes? Does the same hold true for the skill based sports where athleticism isn’t necessarily the primary characteristic.

    I have read Buck Showalter of the Orioles is a proponent of recruiting multiple sport athletes for many reasons, but one being they’re bodies have not weathered as much wear and tear as baseball players that have only played baseball their entire lives.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Football was the main topic simply because I used the Urban Meyer chart to start the conversation. In my opinion, the same benefits would hold true for any athlete in any sport. Baseball players can still pick up explosive movements, change of direction, hand-eye coordination, endurance (pitchers), and other athletic attributes from many other sports. More than that, baseball players as much as any other sport need to rest those young arms. I will blog later about some of the physical detriments to young athletes specializing, but a quick search of the rate of Tommy John surgeries in young athletes today is pretty staggering.
      More so than all of that, I still hype the principle of multi-sport participation for the 97% of our kids who won’t play baseball beyond high school. Those are the kids who need to be encouraged to try everything, play anything, and have fun doing it.
      Thank you for your comments!

  130. PTfromOU

    As a physical therapist, I treat many of these single sport players for overuse injuries at young ages. (I never call young people that play A single sport “athletes” because in my mind the are only players of the 1 sport). I’ve seen a few 3/4 th grade soccer players with problematic knee pain, and 6/7th grade softball/baseball players with shoulder and elbow pain from overuse. My first education is to parent and the need for their child to be involved in different sports to develop movement patterns. Parents mostly tell me how much “their child loves to play”, or “this is how they get looked at for scholarships”. Keep up the good work. We will continue to educate parents.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      You’re one of the experts in the field! I’ll blog later about some of the specialization injuries, too. The parental comments you listed are what I hear, too. To the first, I say, “Great!” To the second, I say many of the same things I write throughout this blog. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  131. Mike

    This is a great article. I am a head varsity tennis coach and an assistant swimming coach. Many of my tennis players participate in multiple sports. In fact, I encourage them to do so. When the spring season comes around, I want them to be ready for a fun successful season and not having the thought of “When can I put this racket down?” I’ve had some players who only participated in tennis, and many of those players did not get a starting position because they don’t have the athleticism the others do. I’ve also had instances of a few freshmen coming in and taking a spot from the upperclassman, because the overall athleticism was more obvious from participating in soccer, swimming, hockey, etc… My kids are very dedicated athletes. I have several standout soccer players that its all about soccer during the summer and fall. During the later winter they pick up their rackets to get ready for the spring season and being they are athletic it comes back to them quickly. Once the spring season hits, its all about tennis. The overall commitment and balance is outstanding. I will continue to encourage my players to be multi-sport athletes.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Excellent examples, and just what we’re looking for in our district! Thank you for doing your part as a coach.

  132. Mark

    i thought parents were suppose to let kids pick and choose sports to play? I think if a kid wants to play multiple sports let him. If a kid wants to play 1 sport let him.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      100% agree. If you wade through some of my comments, you’ll see that I’d never advocate forcing a kid into an activity. The benefits of multi-sport participation would be negated for a kid who didn’t want to be there in the first place. I think we can nudge kids towards exploring their options and/or encourage them to try many things, but if they ultimately don’t want to play, I wouldn’t make them. Thanks for the feedback!

    2. PTfromOU

      Yes, kids should be able to choose but they should not be doing a single sport year round. Even professional athletes have an off season. Usually rest their body/ mind, get healthy and get away from the sport. Too many times kids/ parents want to perform a single sport year round and it’s not healthy for them. Parents need to be involved to get them time away also.

  133. Would you agree that poor coaching, awful practice periodization, lack of education related to developement of the body, poor recovery, bad nutritional habits and parental pressure might have an impact on injury, burnout? These are typical in youth sports around the country. Sport specialization has becomes the scapegoat for what the real problems are in youth sports. What needs to occur is greater detailed research related to the topic. Then and only then can say that sport specialization is the problem.

    Most of the youth coaches in America are mom’s and dad’s who do not have the knowledge base related to proper development. At the club level most organizations say the focus on development but highlight trophies and tournament wins. These become the win at all cost type programs. Again they do not focus on proper development.

    If a kid really enjoys 1 sport and the coaching methods are focused in the right direction with a long term development model, is sport specialization an issue?

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I agree with you on all points but with a caveat for your last statement. Sport specialization for a kid who only enjoys one sport and has coaching methods focused in the right direction for long term development isn’t an issue as long as the kid and the parent understand that there are still no guarantees for any roster spots or playing time at any point in the kids high school career, and no guarantee for a scholarship or even an opportunity to play at the college level.
      Therein lies my biggest issue with kids who specialize (and the coaches and parents that nudge them there). There seems to be a strong belief that specialization will give them a much greater chance of making the varsity team, making the college team, getting a scholarship, etc. Those are the parents that sit in my office upset about their failed investment, and those are the kids I talk to on the street who regret not doing anything else. If a kid can specialize with a healthy attitude about the future, I have no problem with it. I still think it’s better for the kid, as a whole, to find other stuff to do, but I can buy into healthy specialization.

      1. Mom/Educator/Therapist

        I appreciate your article and the comments attached very much. I am not an athlete, I was a dancer/musician (ballet, pointe, etc.) however, I am raising an athlete and, as such, am a fish out of water working hard to understand it all. I wish to share my experience with sports as a parent of 3 very diverse children.

        We live in a major urban area and have much at our disposal, including club team play. Our eldest, at age 7, told us she would like to play soccer and so, we put her in AYSO where she, basically, kicked the ball and then cartwheeled down to the other side of the field. Although the coach graciously invited her back to the team the following year, she obviously decided gymnastics was where she really lived. This however, lasted a couple of years and then we were on to ice skating, soft ball and, eventually, distance running. She no longer competes but, she runs for exercise since, she’d rather spend her time volunteering in the ER at the local hospital, local environmental advocacy organization or working with children. She is an artist/scientist and will likely double major in art and marine biology. When studying, however, she keeps her mind clear with a run or a brisk walk.

        My son struggled with gross motor coordination from a young age. He participated in gymnastics as, we felt the nerve and muscle stimulation involved in tumbling (encouraging awareness of his body), along with the balance, coordination and strength training involved in the other apparatus would assist him without the pressure to win which we found in most little league situations. He also did Karate and eventually landed in bowling, which is the only physical activity, besides biking, he enjoys. He’s currently attending a STEM high school on the campus of a Polytechnic University where the competitive athletics are offered through another school. He enjoys competing on the robotics team and cubes (competes solving Rubik’s cubes also known as speed cubing). Both are activities which have honed the collaborative/leadership skills you have so eloquently outlined (through your blog and responses) in the benefits of all extra curricular activities. The students at the STEM school are all kept on their fitness toes in PE since, they are invited to attend university classes for credit as long as they meet the fitness requirements in PE. If they do not meet the fitness requirements, they cannot participate in the Young Scholar Program no matter what their GPA is.

        Finally, my little athletic animal. From a very young age I have had a little basketball enthusiast. We succeeded in finding a skills based league which did not allow parents to coach and, in which, athletes were expected to play all four sports throughout the year. They practiced 2 days per week, had leadership and teambuilding meetings once per week and games on Saturdays. The rules of the game were modified in the very young years in order for athletes to develop skills which were developmentally appropriate at each age. An example of this would be, as a second grader, when a girl was dribbling down the court, opposing teams could not defend her. After arriving on the offensive side of the court the referee would blow the whistle and the player would hand her the ball while the girls set up their play and the defensive girls got into position. They would run their play and shoot with minimal defensive interruption. Dominating in rebounds was really the only way to win since, as long as you had possession of the ball, you were guaranteed a chance to shoot with little obstruction (defensive players were limited in their movement). Each year, as the girls bodies developed, new skills were honed and the game structure and rules changed until, in 5th grade they were playing full out games. Each girl was guaranteed play time for the equivalent of half the game even in the championships. More skilled players might play the bulk of the game while others rotated in and out. My Daughter was invited to attend the school which runs the youth league in which she participated and their requirement is that all athletes play all sports through 8th grade. None of their athletes (all the way through grade 12) play club sports or specialize. Next year, she will be allowed to drop back to 2 sports however, will likely stick with basketball, volleyball and softball. She has been voted the team captain each year in more than one sport, even when bumped up to play on the higher level teams. Ironically, she is introverted and does not like attention drawn to her. She exudes joy on the court/field, she’s focused, she is unfettered in high pressure situations and a loss never gets under her skin unless she feels she has not personally given her best effort, qualities necessary for workplace success. She enjoys her teammates and is well liked but her favorite activity, off the court/field, is to disappear behind a book.

        As a music educator, I used to tell the parents bringing their children to my studio that about 1% of music students land a job as a featured artist with the philharmonic, that my studio was about the whole child and the process, as well as, the performance and competition. I am uncertain of the statistics for professional athletes however, I am sure there is a great number more participants than professionals. Art, Robotics, Theater, Dance Volleyball, Basketball, or Practicing Altruism . . . the benefits are evident in all of them . . . we decided to guide our children as they discovered their passions and let them chase their own dreams. Trusted and level headed teachers, mentors and coaches have kept them grounded in reality. Testimony to the idea that adolescents need capable and trusted adults other than their parents speaking into their lives. My children are all college bound, honor roll students. I am confident that all these experiences contribute in preparation for a balanced and successful life. As a mental health clinician, I would add that joy, satisfaction, success and altruistic contribution are completed also in the ability to cultivate healthy intimate relationships.

        Thank you for reading my ramblings . . . this post is a triumph, if for no other reason than, as an “athletics challenged” mother, I knew that the name of the official in a basketball game is “referee” and not “umpire” (my daughter would be so proud : ).

        1. highschoolsportsstuff

          Those are great – and very diverse – experiences, and all of them sound very positive. It encourages me to hear when things are going well for all involved. Thank you for sharing your background! And, for what it’s worth, I know some parents who aren’t athletics challenged that still call baseball umpires, referees. You’re ahead of the curve!

      2. Mom/Educator/Therapist

        I forgot to mention that, once a student/athlete gets to 7th grade league play, they are no longer guaranteed play time : ).

        1. highschoolsportsstuff

          This varies by district. In ours, we attempt to give equal playing time to all of our middle schoolers. They’ll be placed in competitive levels to keep parity between our schools, but we try to get equal playing time for every kid on a team.

  134. Chris

    The problem with multi-sport athletes is the lack of an off-season. The over-use injuries in kids who do not give their bodies a rest is staggering. There are many articles being published about this issue. The kids are starting younger and younger. They are pushed too hard by coaches and parents. They sustain injuries in grammar schools and high school that give them long term problems later in life. The slim chance of making it on the collegiate level and even more unlikely chance of making it on the professional level is certainly not worth the high risk of injury due to multi-sport, overuse injuries. Mind you, this is coming from someone who did not practice what I am preaching when I was younger.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Yes, but those overuse injury statistics are from repetitive motions caused by playing the same sport throughout the course of the year, not from switching sports. Certainly a kid’s body needs time to rest and recover, but the majority of those overuse stats you’re talking about are hip/knee from year-round straight-line running, or shoulder-elbow from year round throwing or swinging motions. The way that our sport calendars are built in North Dakota, kids usually have a short recovery period between sports. Similarly, the move from one sport to something else generally changes the type of impact on the body (for instance, we have a large number of kids who are fall soccer, winter hockey, spring baseball kids).
      I completely agree that the slim (VERY SLIM) chance of making a college roster isn’t a reason to challenge injury, but is the potential for injury worth not competing in multiple sports if a kid wants to? You can get hurt rolling out of bed, walking across the street, etc. etc.
      Thank you for your feedback!

  135. I would completely agree with you. Too often, almost always, it’s the parents that push and not the child’s doing.

    If this is your big issue then this should be your discussion. Not talking about the role injuries, and burnout play. You should talk about the parenting and coaching and how they are the problem, not necessarily sport specialization.

    Maybe what we should be doing is educating the parents and coaches on the real issue and not masking it with the cover up of sport specialization.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Dig through my blog, and you’ll find plenty of posts and comments related to that. If you dig through many of my comments on this particular post, you’ll find that I’m not wholesale blaming specialization, either. I’m hyping – and strongly support – multi-sport participation, but I won’t stop a kid who wants to specialize from focusing on that sport year round. If you look through the comments (or read the follow-up post from today), you’ll see me mention many times that I’d never advocate for forcing a kid into a sport. If he/she truly wants to focus on one sport, why would we stop him/her? We just need to make sure it’s healthy.

      That said:
      As you mentioned, kids face burn out when their coaches or parents are guiding them into year-round specialization. The kids who are independently choosing to specialize year round aren’t facing burn out, but many of them are the ones who believe their extra time and focus will lead to more opportunities to play in the future. If we, as a culture, uniformly value and promote multi-activity participation over specialization, then the culture that leads to specialization won’t exist. Think of this in terms of 30-40-50+ years ago. Were there kids who only played one sport? Absolutely, but they did it because it was the only sport they enjoyed, not because they were dead set on winning a scholarship. We’ve created a culture that tells our kids that specialization is the best way to make it to the next level, so they chase that dream. Without that promise of greener grass, we don’t have the same number of kids chasing that dream. The cream will still rise to the top, but more kids will have had the opportunity to enjoy their high school sports for what they were: high school sports.

      You also mention poor coaching technique, poor periodization, poor nutritional habits, and a lack of development knowledge as much of the source of injury problems with specialization. Again, I agree, but who’s going to teach those coaches the right way to do it? My job is to hire, train, and evaluate my high school coaches on these items – something that I do. The North Dakota HSAA doesn’t allow our coaches to work with kids in the off season, nor would I want them to, so who’s left to coach the kids during these specialization periods? Yup – parents. Whose job is it to train the dad running the “elite” hockey team? Who is supposed to train the dad who slapped together a 12U “all-star” baseball team? Who is evaluating the mom that hand-picked 10 girls for her daughter’s travel basketball team? Even if some brave soul were to offer free lessons on these items, you’d struggle to get buy-in from everyone. The only reason these teams exist is because of the culture that created and at then sold value to the need for year round specialization.

      I understand what you’re saying: that it isn’t specialization that is the problem but the manner in which specialization is run. So I ask this question – who is going to fix the manner in which it’s run? I don’t have the time to educate all of the parents running all of the club programs about the “right” way to run a program. I can, however, educate my own coaches/students/parents about the dangers of current specialization and the benefits of high school athletic programs. If I can get those kids to stick with high school programs for the majority of the year, then I know that they’re being coached the correct way.

      I just jumped over to your blog to read your article on sport specialization. I see that your thoughts are similar to mine but without a solution. Who educates those parents running the youth programs?

      I love the discussion – thank you for taking the time to read and debate!

  136. I completely agree with a lot of the points you make and have read a number of the comments where you talk about the what the kids want.

    We as people who recognize the issue cannot let the cycle just continue. By saying that you are going to shy away from the real need and just blame sport specialization is not the answer. When will the leaders step and see that a change is necessary and education needs to be at the forefront of development.

    I think your blog along with ours at educatedcoaches.com have the opportunity to educate people in the elements that really matter. I think we need to get to key points and get to the right people and promote the ideal. Here at educatedcoaches.com this is part of our mission. We are a fairly new company that is beginning to expand from just a blog. We have some great ideas on the horizon to help begin to educate one parent/coach at a time.

    Google the starfish story. Even though we may not be able to make a difference for all, making a difference for some might carry over to future generations and make a big impact in their lives.

    Love the debate too. I will check out some of your other posts. Always excited to read about things that can help youth sports development.

  137. Mary Ellen Mastronardi

    Agree whole-heartedly with this article…. As a parent of three-sport athletes I can’t even count the amount of times a coach tried to get my kids to focus solely on just their sport and even other parents would question” which” sport they were going to choose over the others. My kids didn’t want to choose… They enjoyed playing all three and I truly think this did benefit them. Great article!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I’m glad you and your kids stuck with it. I agree that educating coaches is a huge piece of this. Thank you for sharing!

  138. Mpennetta

    I think it is hard to judge what an athlete in high school ability is based on how many sports he/she plays. Kids play a lot of sports in their youth and depending on the caliber of school they attend may determine what they need to focus on. Face it, in a lower athletic based school a kid can play three or four sports and acell, in a more competitive school they may have to work harder just to acell in the their main sport.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I wasn’t suggesting that the sole determinant was the number of activities a kid is involved in; I was just pointing out the benefits of having diverse participation. There are a ton of factors that play into whether a kid can excel, or even participate, in any activity. College coaches will ultimately recruit the kids who are best suited to play the sport, regardless of how many activities he/she was involved in. My point was simply that there is value to cross training for those students who are college athletics bound (and that number is small – click here), and there is value to multi-sport participation for the multitude of students who won’t play in college (click here). I posted a follow-up to this yesterday that may clarify my position a little bit.
      Thank you for the feedback!

  139. Kelly Leyva

    I absolutely agree! My daughter who has played both soccer and softball from the time she was five, is now a Freshman at Cal Lutheran University (D3) starting and playing both sports there! She played club soccer year-round in addition to high school soccer, but refused to give up softball, playing for the rec league until high school when she then joined the school’s team. Her Senior year she ended up All-CIF for Both sports, starting on both teams for several seasons. Doing both has made her the athlete and person she is today!

  140. Keith Boileau

    I completely agree with this. My 8yo son plays Lacrosse, Basketball, Baseball, and Flag Football, with some overlap (two sports in the Fall and Winter). I can definitely see carry over in skill.

  141. Joe

    As a 3 sport athlete myself in High School I concur with the many positive attributes to playing more than 1 sport, for young men and women, boys and girls. Today’s academic load put on by teachers and the demands of every sport pretty much going year round has put a limit, time constraints and flexibility on our youth to excel in more than 1 sport! I’ve struggled with this as my 12 year old Daughter who is a Travel Softball Pitcher and 1st base player has hitting lessons, pitching lessons, training sessions, not to mention practice. Her Grades are A’s and B’s and she goes twice a week for Math tutor. Not to mention costs! She Enjoys the sport and the camaraderie with the girls and the Coaches are good teachers of the game along with staying positive, yet demanding. I’am a Football Coach and my Wife is a Guidance Counselor so our exposure to young people and the demands, and commitments are very real for our understanding. Would I like to see my Daughter in more than 1 sport, probably. Is it realistic with the above info I have provided probably not. Because when and if there are breaks from Softball, she needs to be a kid and have some other fun!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I agree with that assessment. Hopefully, as a coach, you’re being realistic about what all of those extra lessons may and may not earn in the future. Thank you for sharing that feedback!

  142. jaimed

    At the risk of another pile on, I agree only to a point, of the premise of the article on the positive aspects of mulit sports being beneficial to a student athlete.
    First, I do agree (of course) that academics take priority, period. It is my experience and observation that student athletes are in general more focused. At least the athletes I’ve observed in the sport of swimming seem to be. They have very demanding schedules and need to develop time management and task efficiency. There are just not enough hours in the day to function otherwise. However, in sports that success is measured by time such as swimming and track, I argue there is no or very little benefit from “team sports”. I argue that most team sports increase the risk of injury and detract from practice and focus from their primary sport. Most team sports are riddled with high risk behavior leading to all sorts of injuries from head trauma in football and soccer to hand, foot breaks and twisted joints etc…
    I like to use the analogy of swimming and track bodies are Indy cars focused on maximum speed and endurance in their events. You don’t take an indy car on a Baha race or demolition derby competition.
    It is all about risk reward. The way I see it, there is very little reward competing in most youth sports when your primary sport is based on timed racing.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Thank you for that perspective. As a track and field athlete, I found plenty of skill cross over from my team sports to T&F and vice versa, but I won’t presume that my experience was the same as everyone’s. I appreciate your taking the time to read and comment!

  143. Jennifer

    So well said. I am a mom of three boys living in a small town. All my boys play hockey, which runs almost six months of the year. When asked what summer hockey school I was putting them in, I politely replied ” none”. My husband coaches many minor and high school sports and we don’t agree with the excessive amounts of hockey kids play throughout the year. My boys start the school year playing volleyball, running cross county and playing football. Fall and winter is consumed with hockey and basketball. We throw in a few curling bonspiels if time permits. Then they roll right into badminton, soccer, baseball and of course lacrosse. I go a little crazy trying to organize schedules, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Both my husband and I grew up playing many sports to fill up the year, I can’t imagine only letting my boys ‘focus’ on one sport. Team work, work ethic, coordination, variety of skills, enjoyment, all play into why they do it all. As an adult, even though I had never played hockey before, I felt confident that I could do it because I was athletic and coordinated. Playing multiple sports in school gave me the ability to try new things as an adult.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Good for you! That list of sports will dwindle down as your boys get older, but they will appreciate having the opportunity to try them out. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  144. Terry Hanson

    coach I totally agree and have been an advocate of multi sport athlete’s going back to when I coached you as a kid. The Hockey, Soccer, Hoops and baseball “religious cult” coaches and administrators need to back off!! The kids burn out and nobody wins. Share athletes period!!!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I agree that educating the coaches is a big part of this – although the list of sports where this is prominent various from community to community. Thanks for your support!

  145. B

    Not disagreeing with anything in the article, except for the blantant misuse of statistics. With out a comparison to the students not recruited, one can not tell if multi-sports is good or bad for college recruitment. For example. Lets say the “pool” of all students in the example given is 1000 and 10 did “football only”. Then 50 percent of students who focus on one sport were recruited, while only 4 percent of students who did multi-sport were recruited. Clearly focusing on one sport is what you should do. But if 500 did multi-sport and 500 did single sport, then only 1 percent of single sport students got recruited and 8 percent of multi-sport students got recruited, so multisport is the way to go. I suspect the latter example is closer to the truth, but misuse of stats anyway.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      On an island, there are quite a few flaws in the chart alone. The chart itself wasn’t my point, just the catalyst to get to my point about the benefits of multi-sport athletes. Check out my follow-up post for more of what I was trying to explain. Thank you for the feedback!

  146. Charlie hutter

    I agree with playing multiple sports but as a baseball coach for 15years I believe in putting all attention to one sport at a time,too many sports are offered in multiple seasons and filling in for other teams in need of an athelete because of someone missing just dont seam right,ability is lost when not practicing on a regular bases and I find it discouraging for a child when he dont perform at the level they are use to.ive seen a star baseball player discouraged from the sport because his swing was off during a fill in at a tournament,months after his baseball season was over,he now wants to play lacrosse,3years of baseball now lost

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I will agree with one part of your reply – it is very difficult to do multiple sports in the same season…which is at the heart of my belief. If a kid is playing his fall sport in the fall, his winter sport in the winter, and his spring sport in the spring, then there shouldn’t be two seasons running at the same time. Direct to your comments, this particular kid was participating in a tournament months after his season was over; this is the culture I’m speaking about. If his season was over, his season should have been over – my opinion.

  147. Steve Staker

    As the head football coach at Coe College a D3 school in Cedar Rapids the first thing I want to know is how many extra-curricular activities are you involved in? I’m also interested in their music participation as well. It makes for a well rounded student athlete who is socially adept at being involved with a group/ team and understands teamwork.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I appreciate the support, Coach. I think there are a ton of coaches at every level who are interested in the same things. Thanks for the feedback!

  148. Shari

    we ended up cutting a conversation short with a college recruiting service for our student athlete. Our son plays 3 sports and was considering giving up baseball for his sophomore season to play one season of lacrosse. Since this company had reached out to us simply because our son was a freshman playing Varsity baseball, the first thing the recruiting “coach/scout” told us to do was forget dropping baseball and completely leave every other sport behind to play year round. We quickly discovered that we would NEVER pay a company like this to help us obtain a college scholarship because they obviously know nothing about what they speak! That was the worst advice we had ever heard AND they were even trying to get us to sign up for their services!! I feel sorry for the parents and their student-athletes that actually listen to these companies!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Thank you for sharing that; I’m hearing more and more of this as club sports continue growing. It’s important to remember that these services aren’t in the business of your kids’ best interests; they are in the business of their own best interests. There are a ton of specialty camps, clinics, and services like this that claim to be able to give kids more exposed, better skills, etc. etc. in the interests of playing college sports. The one thing that isn’t shared, is that the abundance of these services hasn’t changed the number of college roster spots available. It’s the same number of high school athletes still competing for the same number of college roster spots, except the number of kids who are “certain” they’ll make it has changed drastically.
      Your experience is one that needs to be shared to parents everywhere. Thank you for commenting!

  149. Don Lange

    So true, athletes and coaches are supposed to be having fun in sports in high school. Learning new skills, developing different muscle groups, changing how muscles are used increases strength and decreases injuries!

  150. Russell Scott

    This article is so on the money!

    I am a defensive backs coach, and an “athlete” is what I wish I could have every year. Not saying that my kids do not work hard or that our football training program is second rate, because it is not. Agility comes from doing different things, different ways, such as this topic of playing different sports. I cannot get football players to run track, or make them TRULY understand the benefits of track and field no matter how many examples I give of men, young men, whom have benefitted from the sport. I do believe that the mental toughness side of track and field (practice) steers players away. They cannot deal with the workouts, and the pain that comes with it.

    Thank you for this article. I will be posting in the locker room today!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Excellent. This is the type of comment I hear from a majority of coaches. Thank you for sharing your experience and for helping to spread the message!

  151. Jude

    Agree. And I am happy to see this movement. After being a relatively gawky kid who was tall for my age and uncoordinated to go with it, I played youth sports (soccer and baseball and basketball) and made one all star team when I was 12 after playing probably 15 total seasons of youth sports. I went on to be a three sport varsity athlete in high school setting school records in the high jump and discus and captaining our basketball team for three years. I played competitive club sports in college and graduate school. I make my living in the courtroom now but still 25 years later play pickup basketball regularly. I lament not only the early specialization but the cult of club teams that seems my 6 year old daughter, a lot like me in her height and lack of early coordination, may not really get the opportunity to flourish as an athlete in her tall body bc her U6 andU8 coaches are focused on winning and recruiting onto club teams rather than teaching fundamentals. Like me, my daughter is most likely to get academic rather than athletic scholarships, but I still want her to know the joy of team and individual competition, comeraderie, and all that comes with being dedicated to a team of people who become lifelong friends.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I also enjoy hearing about these types of positive experiences; I think it validates what we’re trying to teach to the public. Thank you for sharing!

  152. M Anderson

    Great article and excellent discussion. I’m a parent with kids in youth sports (hockey, dance). A few thoughts I would put out for consideration.

    I’m not in favor of telling (or repeatedly reminding) any kid the statistical unlikelihood that they will achieve their dream of one day being on a college or professional team, band, chorus, research group, etc. They are kids, let them dream. As they grow older, nearly all will figure it out on their own and it will be less important to them as they pursue other interests.

    Multi-sport vs single-sport should be less a debate on what is better for gifted athletes to get to the next level; and more a discussion on insuring a wide range of opportunities for all young athletes at all levels. I believe that’s the point of this article. But, I think the Urban Meyer chart is not the best lead in to this discussion, as it suggests the former and drives the discussion along those lines.

    Youth sports now have elite levels requiring from all but the exceptionally gifted athlete a level of dedication that extends well beyond the typical season. If a child wants to excel at basketball and get on the top team with all her friends, then skill development is at least a 9 month affair with a high degree of repetition on mechanics. That this intense investment may not lead to a spot on the varsity team or college scholarship should not really matter. Life has no guarantees. But, if the kid sets a goal and wants it, and the parents can afford it, why not? Especially if the young athlete loves what the are doing and wants to be the best they can be at this point in time.

    Another example is music. If 11yr old Johnny plays drums all day, every day, all year long, we don’t remind him his chances of making money at this skill are quite remote, and to be a better collegiate level musician and be scholarship eligible, he should really spend time on the piano, cello, saxophone, guitar and music theory. Let Johnny bang away on the cans until his hands bleed and the rest will take care of itself.

    Bottom line is that I agree we should not focus our children on a single sport with the only goal being a return on that investment at the collegiate level or beyond. But, single sport focus should also not be frowned upon; especially if the goals are readily achievable. The ROI of making a PeeWee AA team by focusing 10-12 months on skill development is a huge confidence boost and feeling of accomplishment; an experience that will lead a kid to value the payoff hard work, focus and dedication can bring. That’s a life skill which can apply to business, engineering, medicine…

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      If you look through my responses, you’ll see that I agree with you on all accounts. I don’t think we should be telling kids that they can’t make a college roster (or are unlikely to make one), but we have to stop telling them that “If you do this…” you’ve got a great shot at making a college roster. That’s the attitude that I try to change. I’m not against any kid specializing if the kid does so because they love the activity and choose to specialize, for whatever reason. The mentality that I’m preaching about is telling kids that the only way they’ll make a college roster is to work on their skills year round. That places a whole lot of pressure on the kid to specialize while almost creating a false promise for great things to come.
      Thank you for sharing!

      1. M Anderson

        Agree 100%. Two side notes:

        Thank goodness for Lacrosse. Hockey players love it; and a nice spring sport to break up winter-summer hockey leagues which can blend together.

        To me, mental fatigue is a big issue. Playing the same sport year round I think is as tough mentally as it is physically. Can’t expect a kid to “get pumped up” for every game when there’s no end in sight. Just another game.

  153. Brian H.

    I think girls/women’s volleyball is actually an exception to this. Volleyball recruiters largely recruit from club teams, which play year round, except during school season. The only v-ball players who might be able to manage two sports would be the exceptionally tall who are going to be recruited based on height, and wouldn’t necessarily need the club. (exceptionally tall being 6’2″ and up.) Setters, and liberos/ds wouldn’t make a D1 team without a club. I suspect sports like lacrosse are moving this way also. You simply can’t compete in v-ball if you’re not on a year-round, traveling club (which also means spending huge $$$.) I don’t disagree with the spirit of the article, but honestly, I wish kids could just enjoy sports and there wasn’t this un-holy drive for ‘excellence’ which means ‘keep up or get out.’

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Thanks for your insight, but I’ll respectfully disagree. In fact, in our area, volleyball is one of the biggest problems were facing with this right now. We’re continually seeing girls in ND walking away from spring sports in order to play club based volleyball in the spring. As I’ve said in other comments, if the girls are doing that because they truly don’t enjoy the spring sport, because they want to get better for their high school team, or because they just want to see how good they can get, then good for them. If, however, they’re doing it because someone has told them that they won’t make a D1 team without playing club, then we’re creating a bad experience for the majority of our girls. What we’re seeing in volleyball is a whole pile of girls specializing in volleyball in the hopes of making a college roster, but additional high schoolers specializing doesn’t translate into additional college roster spots available. Before I typed this reply, I went back into the player survey replies from my two high schools from after volleyball this past fall. Of the 91 girls who completed the survey at the end of the season, 17 of them (18%) indicated that one of the three main reasons they’re playing high school volleyball is so they can play college volleyball. Here’s where the problem with our culture starts.
      I have no issues with 18% of our players having the goal to someday play volleyball in college; I think it’s a great goal to work for. The problem is that these 17 girls will hear statements like yours telling them that the only way they are going to play in college is to focus on it year round. The stats tell us that 6.2% of high school volleyball players eventually make a college roster at some level (most without a scholarship or with a small scholarship). If our 17 girls decide to focus on specialization and only 6 of them make a college roster, we’ve failed to create a positive experience for 11 girls. But here’s the kicker – at both of our schools, the majority of our most athletic and most talented volleyball players DID NOT indicate that they played HS volleyball for the purpose of playing college volleyball. So let’s say that two of those girls end up playing volleyball in college; now we’ve created a poor high school experience for 13 girls. For the sake of argument, let’s say that 10 of our kids who specialized happened to make a college roster this year. All that means is that 4 girls on someone else’s high school team, who probably also specialized, didn’t make a roster. One way or another, the culture has failed a group of kids.

      I completely agree with your last sentence, and I think we’ve (the folks inside athletics) created this monster ourselves. (You might enjoy this post of mine from last summer.) But we’re not going to fix the problem by continuing to feed the beast. College coaches are paid to find kids to play; they’ll find them. In fact, in the past four years, I’ve been fortunate enough to watch two girls in my high schools with the ability to play volleyball at the D1 level. Both of them were exceptional track athletes, too. One is now playing D1 volleyball; the other is on a D1 track team, but neither’s recruiting process was hampered by playing other sports (both were three sport athletes in high school).

  154. Suzanne

    I’m a mom of three girls and I have seen first hand those tired overworked kids. Ironically they often are the least responsible and the most centered on only one sport. The kids are often really obnoxious and pampered like elite athletes already! The parents aren’t finding the balance for anyone in the family and this just proves the point of this article. It is the lack of balance that is detrimental. I encourage my girls to pick a sport they want to play in each season, contribute by volunteering(usually through girls scouts) and play an instrument. They can drop or add any sport at any time. I don’t pressure them to do anything but fulfill their commitment for that season and as a result my oldest has her black belt in Taekwondo, sprints and pole vaults on the track team, and is on the swim team in high school. She’s the second chair cellist as a junior and a member of the music honor society as well as the National Honor society. She also volunteers at the local nature center caring for animals and I couldn’t be prouder. She never swam as a kid and she is nearly the slowest, but loves being a part of the team. She actually does better in her studies with the structure it forces her to have while participating, and she has so much fun! She will never go to the Olympics and she works very hard for her grades, but that’s the point. I think many multi-sport athletes are those that are willing to try, and be satisfied with making a contribution without being the star. I try hard to teach my girls balance, responsibility, and taking pride in being their best even if they aren’t the best. Lets face it, most of us are just going to have “regular” lives…lol. But they should be the best we can make of it. BTW the two younger ones are shaping up pretty good too, so there’s hope people! 😉

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      Those are fantastic experiences for your girls. No doubt they will appreciate having had the opportunities to be involved in those diverse activities. Thank you for taking the time to read the post and for sharing your story!

  155. 3GenTiger

    Your are WRONG about sports specialization.

    Claiming kids should play multiple sports in late middle school and high school is NOT detrimental and it does NOT provide an advantage to youth athletes in developing skills or impressing college coaches. Specialization enables people of all ages, young athletes to adults be more successful academically, athletically and professionally. Common literature supports this position (Good to Great), school (high schoo/college) rosters supports this idea and NCAA college athletics supports specialization.

    Let’s look at your posting in depth:

    1. Using the Ohio State graphic is horribly misleading.

    The fact is nearly all college football players have NO OPTION to “specialize” in football during high school. Quite simply, there is NO opportunity to develop exclusively within football! In America, by the age of 12, boys ONLY play Football through their educational institution. Armature Football is monopolisticly controlled by schools while the NFL holds a monopoly over professional football. Football stands ALONE as the only sport where 99% of high school *students* have ZERO opportunity to play their preferred sport traditional (full contact, football) outside of school in the off season. While plenty of skills camps and private training options abound; no league with a series of scheduled games exists across the nation.

    As an American football player, the BEST AND MOST COST EFFECTIVE OPTION to improve skills is by advancing general athletic speed and agility skills through another *school* sport AND attend numerous, private, off season training camps which focus on drills. No game IQ development.

    So to infer the majority of football players CHOOSE to play multiple sports is simply NOT true. There is no option to further develop in a specialized, focused, football only program. If such a league did exist, it would be hugely popular. Case in point, the skyrocketing popularity of Flag Football where only the “skilled position” players (QB, RB, WR) compete in non-contact, small sided, games during the off season.

    In your next piece, avoid football. Research and make informed statements which extend across the other major high schools sports. And include BOTH boys AND girls sports which DO offer opportunities to specialize athletic development. Soccer, basketball, baseball, softball, swimming, tennis, volleyball, lacrosse, gymnastics, (and a host of other school sports) ALL have nationally organized well funded opportunities (club or travel ball) which help young athletes safely learn proper skills and sophisticated game play by specializing within a sport.

    Let’s continue through your posting of misguided advice….

    “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.”

    You are misleading readers: College coaches come to watch football players compete in basketball and track because COLLEGE COACHES DON’T HAVE THE TIME TO WATCH HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL ON FRIDAY NIGHT! IT’S THE NIGHT BEFORE THEY HAVE TO COACH THEIR OWN COLLEGE TEAM! This is true for all major high school sports! Volleyball coaches don’t watch high school games because they are preparing their own teams for competition! At Club Volleyball tournaments in the spring (off season), attracts, on average, between 250 – 400 college coaches who spend 2-5 days watching players compete in multiple matches at much higher level competition level than observed in high school games.

    Another one of your misleading statements: “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”

    If this is true, why have college coaches filled their rosters almost exclusively with student athletes who been specializing within a single sport throughout their high school career!!!! The NCAA believes 97% of college student-athletes, competing in a non-football sport, specialized within a sport, playing multiple years on club/travel teams.

    No kid “spends ALL of their time preparing for one sport.” I believe it’s fair to say, college coaches want balanced kids who are socially well adjusted, confident and can represent their university well while being able to academically succeed! All of these qualities which the sport of football struggles with on a what seems to be a daily basis.

    Perhaps if football players were given the option to “focus” and specialize, there would be more football players who demonstrate the discipline, grit, determination and academic performance associated with high achievers in other sports!!!! These are character traits which are abundant in student athletes who SPECIALIZE!

    Third, you mislead again with a group of generalizing statements about what high school players might achieve from being mufti-sport athletes.
    – By wrestling, football players’ balance would improve. This is not true. Wrestling techniques use grips and positions to gain a leverage advantage which do not translate to football (illegal in football) and possibly very dangerous for younger athletes. In the sport of wrestling, there is no running and you do it alone (1 vs 1). In football players run full speed and linemen need to move defensive players into specific areas or someone is going to hurt.
    – Want to destroy a baseball player’s swing/batting average; put skates on his feet and large curved stick in hands. On the flip side, watch a hockey player’s puck control and speed be decimated after a season on the diamond catching with his non-dominate hand, stepping to throw.
    – There is no faster way to destroy a volleyball serve or diminish volleyball passing skills than asking a kid to shoot a basketball, field and throw a softball. The arm swing motions; body positioning are improper volleyball form, diminishes and harms the player’s game performance (in both sports); it doesn’t improve it.

    Outside of football, once a student athlete’s skill level exceeds the recreational / low competitive level, the higher speeds, executing proper techniques and having a very high game IQ are huge determinants on a student-athletes performance and success.

    Since you quoted Alex Morgan – USA Women’s soccer, I’ll finish with some facts and few additional quotes from Alex about what she believes was crucial in her own athletic developed.

    At age 14, Alex specialized in soccer; giving up all other school sports to play for an elite soccer club (Cypress Elite). At Diamond Bar High School, Alex played soccer exclusively. During high school off season she specializing her soccer skills by playing for the Olympic Development Program (ODP) regional and state teams! She later credited the program as an integral part of her development saying: “… programs like ODP helped me especially because I did come into the club scene late and it was important for me to play as much as possible, play with the best players and learn from the best coaches. That, for me, was crucial to my development.”

    AT 14 YEARS OLD, Alex Morgan felt she was “LATE” in her development.

    Lets see if you can do a little better in your next post.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I’d like to thank you for reinforcing my two major points: (1) While specialization can help a small percentage of kids excel well enough to play college sports, those aren’t the majority of our kids; and (2) We need lots of people speaking against specialization for the masses because there are people like you who still think we should be pushing it.

      My follow up to the post you read will further clarify that the chart was simply a catalyst for the discussion, not the basis. Many, many, many of my other comments throughout this post’s section say the same.

      Here’s a post regarding the 6% of the high school athletic population that you feel that you’re advocating for.
      Here’s a post regarding the entire high school athletic population for which I design our athletic program.

      I appreciate your feedback, but I’d also appreciate that you not push your opinions in my community.

      1. 3GenTiger

        Thank you for the links and thank you for your response. Let me first apologize for the personal tone of my post; it was inappropriate. I recognize your belief in the multi-sport approach is a honest pursuit to deliver a positive and fruitful athletic experience to ALL high school students under your charge. You have a hard job. And putting your approach out to masses and asking for critique is a brave act. Although we have differing views, the personal tone unnecessary. I was a jerk.

        I’ve read your linked postings and will read more of your blog in the coming days. I appreciate your view on specialization; particularly as a High School AD; but, respectfully disagree with the view.

        1. highschoolsportsstuff

          …and I’m cool with disagreement. One of the difficulties of running any youth sports is catering to the wants and needs of many, many different people who want and need many, many different things. Thank you, again, for your feedback.

  156. Very happy this blog and topic has been such a success and widely shared on social media. But I want to give credit to the guy that originally created the Ohio State recruiting graph…Tony Holler – Track & Field coach Plainfield North HS, IIllinois.

  157. SteveM

    I was a multi sport athlete in high school who went on to play D1 baseball. I have three sons, all playing three sports. Here’s the difference, and why I don’t know if I agree with the multi-sport theory. When I grew up, I played football from late August through October, basketball from November through early March, and baseball from spring through early August. There was always a start and an end. Last summer my oldest son would go to SAS (strength, agility, skills) training in the early morning, go directly to VFW baseball for several hours, then there was “optional” summer football and “optional” summer hockey league on many days. I put optional in quotes because, even though optional, there was some expectation from coaches that they would participate. Multi-sport kids nowadays rarely get a break. Every sport has grown in intensity of training and off-season commitment. My kid’s body rarely gets a break during a period when that body is growing and maturing. It would be interesting to see what the injury rate is for these multi-sport kids. While I agree that playing multiple sports has the potential to develop more athleticism, the level of commitment for each sport can have deleterious effects as well. Sometimes I feel I’m wearing out my kids. Note to parents: be an advocate for your kid if he/she is playing more than one sport. No when they need a break and make them take a break even if they don’t want to.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I 100% agree, Steve. If you look through my posts and my comments, it’s that year-round training that I advocate against (at this level). When I meet with our coaches, I tell them that off season activities are always optional for the out of season kids and not an option for our in-season kids. I’m not so naive as to think we’re hitting 100% of our kids because of what I tell the coaches, but I’m trying to actively address the culture you’re talking about. As many have discussed here the past week, educating the coaches is a major piece of fixing this problem. Your assessment is right on. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  158. Erin Fitz

    I couldn’t agree more but let me tell you it is difficult to find kids coaches the encourage or understand that. We have had to change teams several times because coaches want 100% commitment to their sport year round. I think it also causes more repetitive injuries for kids.

  159. Bryant Blanton

    Let’s keep this in perspective..
    Being a “well rounded” student or person doesn’t get you recruited.. Being a well rounded ATHLETE gets you recruited. Multiple sports teach multiple skill sets and movements which they otherwise wouldn’t have. For offensive and defensive linemen, wrestling teaches leverage and handfighting they would NEVER be able to match with football alone.. For wide receivers and DB’s, basketball teaches body control and how to time a jump and attack the ball better than anything else.. soccer/kickers, etc.. the list goes on and on.. I was a 3-sport athlete in high school and was recruited to play 2 sports in college, and I’m not a physical specimen by any means.. playing multiple sports made me more athletic and sharpened skills I would never have had, and prevented me from ever being burned out.

  160. Kari

    Where does this entire conversations revolve around sports. Why is there no mention about the importance of a broad base of sports academics leadership and volunteer type work. How about those athletes that only enjoy one sport and then focus on the other important areas of life. And hope all of the athletes who realize that sports and become so onerous and take up so much time at there’s no room for academics so they choose to limit their sporting participation.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      If you take a look through some of the comments and some of the other posts, you’ll see that I agree with you. More than that, you’ll see that my intent is to speak against widespread specialization. If a student is involved in other activities, he/she isn’t specializing. Thank you for taking the time to read the post and comment.

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  163. Rodeo Mom

    I would like to add a sport that most coaches, schools, or kids even, don’t think about. My kids all were involved in rodeo. That is a sport that they themselves have to work at alone. Nobody makes them practice, nobody makes them ride.My youngest boy played football from 5th grade on. In high school, he would feed his horses and be to lifting by 6 AM. After school he would come home, do homework, go back to school for football practice, then come home and ride and practice then feed horses. All through high school, he was taunted by football coaches and other athletes to quit rodeoing and only play football. His senior year, he decide to quit football. (Broke my heart) he worked hard and made it to Nationals in rodeo and also got full ride rodeo scholarship offers to many schools. I guess my rant is…I wish that more coaches would see that rodeo is also a sport and would acknowledge that. Thank you for a great article. I to have known coaches that think their sport is the only sport.

  164. PATRICK WYATT

    In 50 years of coaching i have seen the most amazing changes in kids that joined more than one sports team. Better grades , better attitudes, positive personality change the list goes on and on. A story and a good one. during a basketball game i ran into a div.1 football coach watching my state champion discus thrower play basketball. I said to him
    “Why do you want him ? He wasn’t even first team all conference in football .” He looked at me and smiled and said “Coach Wyatt he is a great athlete !! I can teach him all he needs to know to be an All American. his ability in basketball and track shows me all I have to know about how good of a left tackle he will make!!” He went on to start in a big div. 1 school and got phone calls and letters from the pros. Not drafted because of injury.
    If i had a dollar for every kid that came out for track or any sport as a second sport and ended up scholarship in that sport I would be living in Hawaii !!! right on coach !!!!

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  166. High school coaches are sending the wrong message to kids these days. Even though my son is sad that he didn’t make the lacrosse team this year – I am overjoyed. Why do you ask? The coaches are AWFUL and getting worse. My son played football, hockey and lacrosse all with the promise that we want the kid who plays multiple sports but “don’t you dare miss (hockey), (lacrosse )or (football) workouts during the offseason and we better be your number one sport”. And once we have recruited you to be interested on the team please ask your parents for money. The kids who play the most are the kids who play that one sport as a travel team, the secondary athletes get thrown in for a handful of minutes. The truth is that the coaches say that they want the best athletes who play multiple sports but if they really review the stats most kids cannot be stellar at every sport so they only play the kids that are on the travel teams. Eventually your kid will need to only play one sport because as my daughter says ” It is an all or nothing attitude with each teacher and coach”. That is the sad truth – Plus America would be better to focus on mental athletics rather than slamming our kids heads into each other.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      If you look through some of my other comments, you’ll see that I agree that we have coaches who are part of the problem. I try to educate our coaches on the difference between teaching kids the importance of winning vs. teaching kids the importance of preparing to win. It’s going to be a long, uphill battle! Thank you for sharing your experience.

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  168. cornersss

    By playing all the major sports in high school you are honing your skills when you do just go with one sport in the end.

  169. noodle

    The movement towards select/club sports is just insane. It forces the kids to become specialized in one sport. Most of these select/club organizations make you sign a contract stating that you are completely committed to that team and anything that conflicts just gets pushed aside. Select/club sports are also very expensive and almost always year round, leaving little time to pursue a different sport or activity. My daughter plays select softball. She got lucky that when she was 8 her rec league team started tournament play and then eventually joined a select organization. The organization they are with does not require commitment contracts and is not super expensive. The organization also encourages the kids to play other sports so they do not get burned out on softball and will work with the school schedules for conflicts since the kids are required to attend the school games. But, if you asked my kid what her sport was, she would say softball because she plays it almost 12 months out of the year even though she also enjoys volleyball, basketball and track which she plays for her school. Her time commitment to softball is 4 days a week (1 evening with her batting/catching coach, 1 evening catching one of her pitchers at her lessons, 1 evening for team batting, 1 team field practice and this is if they do not have a tournament that weekend), on top of her commitment to her school work and her school activities. She is just now realizing at 13 how much of a commitment it is to play select and how much of her time it consumes. She has also been told several times that in order to make varsity or get a college scholarship, she has to play select and have private coaching which if a kid cannot afford it is completely unfair. She plays for fun, she loves the game, but it has become a chore to her lately and I think this may be the last year for select play for her by her decision. She knows that she has an excellent college fund provided by me, so she does not HAVE to get a sports scholarship to go to college. And, I am hoping that if she decides to not play select anymore then maybe she will be way less stressed out.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      It’s good to hear that you haven’t bought into the athletic scholarship argument. 3% of high school athletes earn a college athletic scholarship, and most of those are small dollar awards. I agree that much of our problem was created by coaches who have created this “need” to be involved year round. The reality is that we have more kids who are specializing but the same number of kids moving on from high school to college. It’s really become a matter of having a conversation with out kids about what they value and what they want to do. If they WANT TO specialize in the hopes of making a high school varsity team (and know that it’s likely the end of the line), I think we should let them. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for many of our kids who feel like they should be specializing.
      Thank you for sharing your experience. It sounds to me like you have a pretty healthy attitude about it!

  170. August

    Then schools need to allow kids to participate in more than one. I find that more and more, schools don’t allow kids to be in more than one sport or activity at a time anymore.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I agree although it’s less about “schools” and more about “coaches”. We try to address problems with coaches who put on the perception of necessary off-season participation in our district, but I know we’re still not getting 100% buy in…we just keep plugging away at it. Any change in this culture is going to need to come little by little from every source: admin, coaches, parents, and kids.

  171. LBT

    My son was a happy hockey/lacrosse player for many years until he discovered he had a strong talent for swimming as a freshman in high school. It’s all he wants to do – and just like anything else, it’s available all year long – so it’s been bye bye to the rest. While I’m happy to support him, I do worry that leaving everything else behind will lead to burnout…I guess we will just follow his lead & try to make sure we keep it all in perspective. Thanks for the interesting read!

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      There’s one important point in your message that I caught on – it sounds like your son has decided to swim year round because he wants to swim year round…and that’s ok! As long as no one is pushing him in the that direction with promises of what it might lead to or warnings that he won’t accomplish something without specializing, then he’s in it for the right reason.
      I appreciate and agree with your stance as a parent. Let him do what he wants to do, support him, and enjoy the ride. Thanks for sharing!

      1. LBT

        It’s funny – no pressure from the coaches (other than sticking to the commitments you make), it’s the intensity of the other parents I find occasionally unnerving. Having been a hockey mom you’d think I’d be used to it, ha! Actually, I think it’s that experience that is allowing us to step back a little & enjoy his time in the pool for what it is, without drinking the Koolaid about scholarships etc. Thanks again!!

  172. EMS7

    I believe there has to be a balance in life and nothing teaches that like having multiple responsibilities. Speaking from experience(not theory) as a former Dean’s list student in college I can tell you that being a full time scholarship athlete is what truly led me to being successful all facets of my life as a husband, father, community leader, and business professional. Balancing academics and athletics along with competition, being on time, being my best at all times, and going through adversity with my teammates is what helped me the most. However, if I had to lean one way or the other, I would say that college athletics is responsible for a great deal of my success along with the Lord’s guidance.The truth is, I still have yet to find one applicable thing to real life that I heard while listening to a professor talk for an hour. Most of the theories taught in college are not applicable to real life. Academics are important because it is a measure, but it is not “THE” measure of how successful you will be in life. Real life challenges, competition, people skills and ability to overcome adversity is what makes you, not your GPA. For the record Bill Gates and Michael Dell were college drop outs.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I definitely agree. I try to hold our coaches accountable for teaching those things instead of using tunnel vision towards simply winning games and hanging banners. We want our kids to have a meaningful experience that provides them useful tools for the future. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  173. EMS7

    highschoolsportsstuff, I forgot to say this is a great article! I played multiple sports and was fortunate enough to play some professionally(at a small level) and my boys now love baseball, but we do not play in the fall and they do play other sports. While I was chasing my professional sports dream, I coached at my alma mater for 2 years and I always tried recruiting 2-3 sport athletes and I always stayed away from “that parent!” My coach had a rule that he told every new player coming in. He would say this” if your parents call me during the season about playing time, you will not get any!” In other words, don’t be “that parent!”….thanks for the great article.