When children express an interest in sports, parents have some decisions to make. One of the more important ones: Should they play multiple sports or would it be better to choose one sport and focus on that?
Here are some reasons why kids should play multiple sports throughout childhood, rather than just one.
1. Kids discover for themselves what they love
Sometimes a parent decides that because they loved playing football as a teenager, their child will also love it. This potentially sets themselves (and their children) up for struggle and disappointment. These are parents who also tend to be most toxic in the stands and ruin the experience for others.
There are so many sports, teams and activities for children to discover.
What if you choose baseball and your child at some point wants to try martial arts?
Will you be disappointed?
Everyone deserves the opportunity to chart their own path. Discover for themselves what they want to spend time doing. When parents let go of that control and support their children, youth sports is a more positive environment for everyone.
2. Staying engaged
Young athletes who enjoy a variety of athletic pursuits don’t get bored as easily.
What’s wrong with boredom? Bored athletes get distracted and are injured more easily than those who stay interested in the game.
Multi-sport athletes are also exposed to different kinds of coaching methods. They don’t put all their stock in one way of doing things. As a result, they don’t burn out as quickly. An added bonus: they are less likely to bond with coaches who demand too much time and energy.
This leads to healthier interactions both on and off the field.
Young players who diversify also don’t experience the same high levels of stress. They are not dialed into one goal, feeling less overwhelmed with defeats or losses.
Stressed out kids quit sports at a younger age.
When these kids value the experience and joy of playing sports, they’re psychologically healthier. This means less mental and physical fatigue, making them better players.
3. Improves self-esteem
When children play multiple sports, they feel better about themselves.
A variety of experiences reveal different strengths and talents that athletes must possess to achieve success. Grit, mental toughness, overcoming adversity – these are all qualities that help kids feel good. When young players aren’t overly relying on one area, to the detriment of all others, they better appreciate who they are.
This leads to improved schoolwork, a more active social life and healthier eating habits, too.
4. Reduces Injuries
When children play one sport all year, they use the same body parts over and over again. The same muscles, too. This leads to overuse and injury.
Some injuries are so common for a particular sport, they are named for the sport itself. Tennis elbow. Tennis knee. Football concussions. Pitcher’s shoulder. The list goes on and on.
Many experts believe that overdoing it in sports at a young age can lead to even more serious injuries later in life.
In contrast, kids playing more than one sport use many different body parts on a rotating basis. Therefore, they don’t overuse the same ones. A volleyball player isn’t going to depend on her clavicle in quite the same way while swimming during the off-season. A pitcher can give his arm a rest while running track and field.
Building up different muscles and strengths while playing a variety of sports can benefit players in other ways. That running back will run faster if they practice cross-country sports during part of the year.
Multi-sport athletes have a chance to improve in all areas. They find themselves stronger athletes in general as well as less prone to injury.
5. Well-rounded children grow into well-rounded adults
In a world that puts too much emphasis on appearance, let’s help our kids change their focus. Especially during middle school, confidence drops off.
In addition, learning about and participating in different sports is like learning about different cultures and traditions. That knowledge helps children better relate to the world around them.
There is also a lot of crossover in sports that benefits participants.
For example, a running back can improve his speed when participating in sports like soccer and track. A swimmer improves flexibility and timing with yoga or gymnastics lessons. Fitness and endurance in one area leads to fitness and endurance in others. No matter the sport.
6. Expand social experiences
One of the best things about sports is that it brings people together. Teamwork makes the dream work, and everyone plays an important role. Working together toward a common goal, for many, starts with an early athletic activity. Children practice cooperation with others.
Youth sports also bring people together who may not have crossed paths otherwise. The more experience a child can get, relating to others, the better.
Successful adults employ effective time-management skills. Working, keeping track of children’s progress in school, planning enrichment activities and hopefully maintaining healthy relationships at the same time.
How do grownups hone this skill? Practice.
Such practice starts in childhood. Children learn to employ healthy time management/multi-tasking through multi-sport activities. They must also maintain a healthy fitness routine year round, employ healthy eating habits and balance schoolwork.
Healthy habits that last a lifetime.
8. Options are good
Studies show that high school coaches prefer well-rounded rather than sheltered athletes. This can only come from exposure to more than one sport.
Later on, college coaches and admissions reps look for similar traits. Students must demonstrate the ability to adjust. Not only to new situations, but also to different coaching styles, competitive situations and challenges.
Reducing pressure athletically, psychologically, socially and academically are major reasons why kids should play multiple sports. We all go through slumps. When one door closes, having another open is often the difference between a success story and heartbreaking defeat.
Parents want their children to succeed. Give them the best chance by expanding their horizons. Showing them the world that’s out there with not one, but many wonderful roads to take.