The issue with high school athletics today is that they have a very elementary mindset. Click here for the previous article about early specialization and what an elementary mindset is in athletics. They push for multi-sport athletes and some schools even require students to play a sport in at least 2, if not all 3 seasons. They are hindering the progress of these athletes who should just be focusing on their best sport, unless the athlete really wants to play all 3 sports. But that should be his/her choice, not administration. If there is a prodigy who is getting looks and offers from D1 colleges as a sophomore or junior, then there is no need for that kid to play other sports. In this world of “everyone gets a trophy” we should be encouraging the greatness of one sport athletes, not promoting mediocrity.
Now there’s a problem of just doing too much at once. Some of this is caused by the parents, but I think it is mostly driven with this obsession that colleges only want “well-rounded” athletes. I’m not a college coach, but I’m pretty sure if I had to choose between two girls for my hockey team and Girl A scored 35 goals as a senior and only played hockey, yet Girl B scored 9 goals as a senior but also played soccer and track I’d choose Girl A every day of the week. It’s my job as a college coach to make sure I have the best players on my team, because my ass is on the line. If my team sucks, I get fired. So I’m taking whoever is the best, not the most well-rounded athlete.
Colleges want the best athletes in their sport, period. Because of this misinformation we have kids playing 2-3 sports in one season now. Overlapping sports in the same season is a recipe for disaster. Suzy might be a good hockey player who plays for the high school Monday-Friday, but because she is stud lacrosse player, she plays indoor lacrosse on Wednesday night and Saturdays, and then she also has soccer camps and showcases on Saturdays and Sundays just incase a college coach wants to offer her a spot on the soccer team. See where I’m going with this? Three sports in one season is a great way to never be great at anything. What poor Suzy doesn’t know is that if she just focused on playing lacrosse and followed a complete training protocol of preseason, in-season, and offseason, she might’ve gotten that offer from Duke or UNC. Instead, she tore her MCL playing hockey because her body was so run down. Now she plays D3 Lacrosse at a local college, but damn, she’s the best player on that team that no one cares about!
My point is that by overlapping sports you are exacerbating the problem of the elementary view on athletics. There is no time for recovery, no chance to ever be great at anything, and the risk of injury skyrockets. We need to stop pitching the bullshit to our kids that just by playing a bunch of sports at once they will be great. And parents need to stop living vicariously through their children. Just because you were a great baseball player doesn’t mean your kid wants to play baseball. I know that you “just missed” getting that D1 offer, but that doesn’t mean that pushing your kid to go D1 is going to get you any recognition. I’m sorry, but no one cares about athletes’ parents other than the athlete.
So what about the average kids? Just as everything else in life, there are always exceptions. So, it depends. If there is an athlete that isn’t great at anything but is pretty good at everything, then let him/her play whatever sports they want. Still no overlapping sports, but if Johnny wants to play soccer in the fall, indoor track in the winter, and lacrosse in the spring, then so be it. If there is no clear indication he is going to be great at any of the sports, then he cannot hurt his value by playing multiple sports. I think the biggest point is that the choice should always be left up to the athlete, no matter what. If my kid was clearly the next Tom Brady, but he wanted to play tennis, I would try to persuade him otherwise with examples of his greatness, but at the end of the day, if the kid wants to play tennis, then so be it.