Why Kids Should Play Multiple Sports
Updated: Nov 23, 2019
More and more young athletes in the U.S. are choosing to focus on just one sport. Why? A big part of this trend has to do with parents and other influential adults convincing these athletes that they need to commit to one sport to excel at it. However, this can bring unintended and undesirable consequences. Children who devote their time to only one sport are more likely to experience burn out and over-use/overtraining-related injuries, amongst other things.
With that being said, there are numerous advantages to children playing sports, with even more benefits attributed to playing multiple sports. Let's take a closer look at the benefits of your child playing multiple sports.
Decrease Overuse Injuries
As mentioned above, over-use injuries are much more likely when a child focuses solely on one sport. Repetitive motions lead to injuries in youth and adults alike and can be especially detrimental to children, potentially permanently damaging their joints and stunting growth in the injured areas. Over-use injuries have been on the rise in young athletes in our country over the past several years, which correlates to the trend of decreasing participation in multiple sports. By being active in more than one sport, your athlete allows time for certain body parts to rest while others are being utilized. For example, a child who plays baseball in the spring or summer has time to rest his or her arms and shoulders while playing basketball in the fall.
Hone Multiple Skills
By participating in multiple sports, your young athlete will hone a variety of skills, which will also be transferable to the other sport(s) he or she plays, such as hand-eye coordination, agility, and better overall coordination. So, perhaps counter-intuitive to our current culture of believing an athlete can only become the best by focusing on and training in one particular sport, your child's experiences and skills gained in another sport actually help him or her become a better athlete in all of the sports he or she plays.
Also mentioned above, your child is significantly more likely to experience burnout with a sport if he or she is only playing one. This is especially true in younger children and those that are involved with highly competitive year-round teams.
Enjoy the Sport
Participating in multiple sports also increases the likelihood that your athlete will enjoy whichever sports he/she is playing as opposed to focusing solely on the winning aspect. While winning is certainly an acceptable and achievable goal of any athlete, it is also equally important that the young person has a good time playing the sport and feels a sense of accomplishment just knowing that he/she tried his/her best, whether he/she wins or not. Plus, if your athlete is enjoying himself, he is less likely to experience burnout.
Keep Them Occupied in Off-Seasons
If your child is participating in outdoor sports as opposed to year-round competitive teams, trying out another sport in the off-season can help your child remain active. Although the increase has slowed some over past years, childhood obesity is still very much a prevalent health issue in the United States. Currently, our obesity rate of children ages 6-11 is at 18.4%. By keeping kids active, they are more likely to be healthy and, perhaps better yet, will set them up to become active adults as well.
All kids and athletes need to experience challenges to grow. For an athlete, playing multiple sports can be just the challenge they need, especially if he/she is already used to excelling in one sport. For example, say your child is naturally gifted when it comes to playing soccer. While she can transfer the skills of speed and agility to the basketball court, she may have a harder time controlling the ball since she is using her hands instead of her feet. As long as she is still enjoying learning the sport, this can be the perfect, fun obstacle your athlete needs to grow.
Learning new skills is also a great confidence booster for athletes of any age. One of the issues with playing the same sport is the repetitiveness of it and “falling into a groove” where the athlete is not being challenged any more or learning anything new. Children love learning new things and feel a sense of pride when they've accomplished a new skill, even if it's something as simple as learning to dribble a basketball or a new swim stroke.
Learn Life Skills
Not only does playing multiple sports help an athlete become better in each sport he/she participates in, it also helps young athletes learn important life skills, such as time management, teamwork, and communication, all of which are vital to becoming an effective member of the workforce in the future.
Discover Something New
Hand-in-hand with confronting new challenges, trying more than one sport gently coerces young athletes into stepping outside of their comfort zone. Aside from the new obstacles of learning new skill sets, rules, etc for a different sport, they may just find that this new sport is something that they unexpectedly love. They will also be exposed to a more diverse group of people, both adults as coaches and their peers as fellow teammates, that they may have otherwise never gotten to know or even met.
Whether it's learning new skill sets, keeping them active, or avoiding burnout, you can see that there are numerous positive benefits to letting your young athlete participate in multiple sports. Just remember: The most important thing is that they are having fun and enjoying themselves by participating.