The Multi-sport Athlete: A Dying Breed
Ever since the first competition of throwing a spear, contests have determined who is stronger, faster, and smarter in a specific skill. The competitors, now better known as athletes, are beginning to specialize in a specific type of competition. Growing up, young athletes participate in a variety of sports, but they often specialize in one before even entering high school. There are numerous exceptions of athletes playing multiple sports, but these multi-sport athletes are becoming a dying breed. These players have become engrossed in a specific sport, not wanting to play others which can sometimes affect their athletic ability as well as the success of the school’s athletic program. Athletes should be encouraged, not deterred, to use their skills and ability to play multiple sports in the adolescence of their life.
At young ages, parents register their children for recreational sports with hope that the child will spend energy on a wide open field under the supervision of another adult. If the child does well in the sport or the kid is having fun, the parent feels obligated to do more. Often, the young athlete will begin to compete in Amateur Athletic Unions—a travel league in the area—and eventually, if good enough, around the state and nation. These year round travel leagues consume the nights of a young middle school athlete with practices along with their weekends with far traveling games or tournaments. Year round, the young athlete is held to a high performance standard so that the parent is not disappointed for putting so much time and money into their child’s future. The parent hopes that because of the child’s talented athletic ability, he/she will be able to earn a scholarship to play that sport at the collegiate level. But what if the child is not good enough to achieve the high status of an athletic scholarship in the sport he/she invested so much time, money, and effort into?
When going through elementary but more specifically middle school, young athletes should be exposed to many different types of sports to explore the options that he/she may be good at. The initial exposure to sports and what the parent and child may think the young athlete appears be good at might not always be the case. An athlete’s first sport might not always be his/her best. There are numerous cases in which a basketball player may find football to be a better fit due to his aggression and explosiveness. Some of the best athletes that play at the professional level played two or three sports in high school. Their opportunity to play a sport in college was increased because of their selection of sport. Their talented athletic ability was furthered by the skill sets in other sports.
High school is a time in life in which the adolescent should have fun and experience many activities without their parents always guiding them. Specializing in one sport early on does not give the child much experience or exposure in other fields. Rather, they are consumed in one sport. These kids are being pressured into going to specialization camps over summer, and quite frankly, “kids don’t have fun anymore” (Lasnier). Fun brings memories, and there are numerous cases in which previous high school athletes regret quitting other sports that they did not feel pressured in to simply enjoy high school and have fun (Altstaetter). Altstaetter, an Ohioan local sports columnist, also believes that high school should be about what someone can do in sports, not what they should do. So let the athlete choose which sport/sports should be played by giving them the option and without holding them back. Playing multiple sports gives the athlete various physical advantages over specialized athletes. Contrary to the growing belief that coaches do not want their players playing multiple sports, an interview study conducted by Block, Leichenger, and Park, shows that high school...
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