Can you guess the one thing that most elite athletes have in common? They were multi-sports kids. Ask them what they were doing at age 10, and most will tell you they were playing two to three sports, not just one. The most talented athletes in the world are able to distinguish themselves from the pack thanks to a range of skills beyond what is typically expected in any given sport.
Babe Ruth League hopes by coming out and saying repeatedly that multi-sport play is really what is best for children, parents will be become better educated and end the one-sport athlete trend.
And when we refer to multi-sport, we do not mean swimming at 6 a.m., soccer at 4 p.m. and baseball at 7 p.m. We mean one organized sport per season. We also suggest a strong focus on education, getting good grades, artistic pursuits and a great social and family life. The more activities a child is introduced to, the better chance he/she has of finding the activity/activities he/she is most passionate about.
This is not new information. Research has shown that early participation in multiple sports leads to better overall motor and athletic development, enhanced athleticism, longer playing careers, increased ability to transfer sports skills to other sports and increased motivation, ownership of the sports experience and confidence. Multi-sport participation at the youngest ages yields better decision making and pattern recognition, as well as increased creativity. These are all qualities that coaches of higher level teams look for. And if your child wants to play sports at the next level, would it not be better to have a multi-sport athlete decide to specialize in high school, instead of a specialist who decides to diversify in high school?
As we have indicated many times, there are physical risks involved with early specialization, such as a higher risk of stress fractures and other severe overuse injuries. And then there is the emotional toll early specialization can bring. We have seen the damage to the parent-child relationship when a child thinks their parent’s love is tied to winning. This is too much pressure to put on our kids. Not to mention the fact that children who specialize early in a single sport have a higher rate of adult physical inactivity as those who commit to one sport at a young age are often the first to quit due to burnout and lack of enjoyment. They often suffer a lifetime of consequences.
Every now and then you will hear the argument that college coaches prefer kids to spend all their time preparing for one sport. And yes, there are probably some coaches like that, but they are in the MINORITY. More so than having acute, specialized, sport-specific knowledge, college coaches are interested in other aspects of high school athletes:
- How is his/her academic performance?
- What other sports did he/she play?
- How does he/she move?
- How does he/she think?
- How does he/she work with teammates?
- How does he/she deal with adversity?
- How does he/she compete?
Too many parents and coaches having been pushing kids to specialize in a single sport very early in life. This has backfired in our faces. It truly doesn’t work. Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. Pushing for those athletic scholarships and $1 Million pro contracts does more harm than good. On the off chance that your kid is a very gifted athlete with the arm strength, foot speed, power, stamina, and character, who gets all the right breaks at the right time, chances are he or she will rise up through the ranks of community-based programs like Babe Ruth League, rather than being groomed on the travel ball circuit.
The evidence is in. It’s pretty conclusive. It’s time for all youth sports organizations to encourage multi-sport participation. We can serve our children better. We have the responsibility to help them become better athletes by encouraging them to become all-around athletes. We can help them develop into successful adults by providing valuable life lessons, on and off the field.
Babe Ruth League is always open to your thoughts on how we can stand up and change the status quo that forces kids to choose far too young.