As children, athletes are generally encouraged to test out as many sports as they please. Parents encourage them to try out different fields and courts to discover which sports they like best and which they’re good at.
There's a perception that things change a bit once those kids become teenagers. The thought is that parents encourage them to specialize in one sport, in theory maximizing their chances to perfect their craft and earn a college scholarship.
But that’s a bit of a myth. Consider this year’s Super Bowl, which featured some of the best athletes in the world. A recent study showed 102 of the 106 players (96 percent) who suited up for the game played at least one other sport in high school. 65 played at least two sports (61%) while 33 tackled three (31%).
Single-sport specialization amongst youth today is troubling. Let kids be kids. They'll become better all-around athletes & have more fun.
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) March 2, 2015
88 percent of 2017 NFL Draft picks played at least two sports in high school, and a recent poll of 1,731 professional athletes found nearly 80 percent said they wouldn't want their own child to specialize in a single sport during childhood/adolescence. Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry is a big proponent of having young athletes try their hand at multiple sports, and names like Tom Glavine, Tony Gwynn, Carl Crawford and Allen Iverson highlight the list of notable athletes who dominated multiple games in high school.
“I just think that the cross-training, the different types of coaching, the different types of locker rooms, the different environments that you practice in, the different challenges—I think it develops a much more competitive, well-rounded type person,” Dabo Swinney, the head football coach at Clemson, said in 2016.
Playing multiple sports isn’t the right answer for every athlete, and there are benefits to sports specialization. But there are also clear benefits to branching out and competing on different fields, courts and tracks.
- Develop new skills: Multi-sport athletes acquire or enhance skills they can apply across sports. Hand-eye coordination, agility, strength and balance can all be enhanced by playing one sport, but used to succeed in others.
- Alleviate burnout: Many multi-sport athletes tire of doing the same thing over and over with the same people, and end up jaded. Playing other sports mixes up their routine and keeps athletics fresh.
- Learn what they’re good at: Athletes might believe they know their best sport by the time they reach high school, but sometimes they’re simply a late bloomer or haven’t yet been introduced to their best sport. Playing several sports expands their knowledge and lets them choose which is best for them.
- Limit overuse injuries: Many injuries occur because the constant strain put on the same joints and muscles causes them to wear down over time. This is common for softball and baseball pitchers (shoulder, elbow) or basketball players (foot, knee).
Specialization may be the right answer for some athletes, but you should give your players the best opportunity to find which sport is right for them. Implementing a video analysis solution like Hudl makes it easier for them to try new sports and gives them the chance to discover which is their best.
Video boosts athletes’ confidence, helps them develop their skills, and gives your coaches another way to connect with them. These benefits will help players discover their real strengths and pick their best sport. That makes your teams better and helps more players get recruited and participate in college.
To help your athletes find their true calling, get them engaged with Hudl.