It is beyond me why a coach would tell players that it is alright to play multiple sports at a young age, then, in the very next sentence state that they have to understand that their skills will be behind players that only play that sport year round. This is very contradictory to young impressionable young players. This is a major problem in youth and school aged sports today.
There is scientific evidence that playing multiple sports during childhood and adolescence is more effective than single-sport specialization in developing successful athletes. Scientific data suggest that early single-sport specialization is detrimental to the long-term success in team sports.
As a coach of 26 years I have seen how this is very detrimental to a team. Players are being coached by the school teams coaching staff and then when practice is over they go to Coach Nobody to teach them differently than the school coaching staff. The player comes back to practice the next day and wants to do certain skills like they were taught by Coach Nobody (Because Mom and Dad paid $35 an hour for that instruction) and it causes the team coaching staff to come down on the player for doing the skill differently than what they were taught the day before in the team practice. Then this player begins to infiltrate within the team that the school coaching staff doesn’t know what they are talking about and Coach Nobody is a better coach. Now half of the team wants to go to Coach Nobody and do it another coaches way that isn’t any part of the program.
Depending on the sport, a school season usually last 3-4 months. This spiral affect this has on players can cause many problems and issues within a school program. Coaches have to keep their eyes and ears open to nip this kind of scenario in the bud. In many cases before it is addressed the damage has already been done and there is no salvaging the season.
Players and parents need to realize that they should not want their son/daughter to be an all-star youth player. They should focus on them becoming an all-star in high school or college. By playing multiple sports from youth through high school they can learn different skills and different ways to use their body, which will help their overall athleticism. There is no better indication of this than the 2016 NFL draft. Of the 31 first round picks 28 of them played multiple sports in high school. If that is not a telling statistic, I don’t know what else to say.
By Dr. Bret Simmermacher
Dr. Simmermacher is the Chair of Sports Coaching at the United States Sports Academy, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org