Playing multiple sports is usually best option for kids

Many parents may think they’re helping their children by having them specialize in one sport, but an ever-growing body of evidence shows it may be just the opposite.
Many athletes play and train for one sport year round, often thinking it will help them excel in that area of expertise and give them a better chance at earning a college scholarship and maybe even reaching the pro ranks. The growth of non-school teams, such as AAU or Junior Olympic Volleyball teams, has added to this specialization in the “offseason.”
A small percentage of athletes may actually benefit from year-round focus on one sport, but the majority of the almost 7.7 million participants in high school sports will gain far more benefits by being involved in multiple sports, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
Here are some of the benefit’s the NFHS lists for playing multiple sports:
* better leadership and teamwork skills from cross-training
* reduced risk of burnout in one sport
* variety of experiences from involvement with different sports and teams
* reduced risk of overuse injuries in one sport
* exposure to a variety of coaching styles
The argument for multiple-sport participation may best be stated by what the student loses by specializing in one sport. Matthew Shomper, athletic director at Tippecanoe High School in Tipp City, Ohio, was quoted in “High School Today” saying that one-sport athletes lose “the socialization with a slightly different peer group, a different coaching model and seeing things in a different context than if the individual played a variety of sports each year.”
I’m especially concerned about overuse injuries in some sports, like baseball and softball.
There has been a five-fold increase since 2000 in the number of serious elbow and shoulder injuries among youth baseball and softball players, according to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. The organization helped launch, a website devoted to educating parents and young athletes about sports injuries.
Overuse injuries are responsible for nearly half of all sports injuries to middle school and high school students.
When kids play multiple sports they cross train their muscles by using them differently.
Speaking from my own experiences as a three-sport athlete all the way up through high school, it was nice to change seasons to get a fresh start on each new team and conditioning regimen. The physical requirements from football, to basketball, to baseball are obviously slightly different and by switching back and forth over the years I never felt burned out physically or mentally and avoided any serious injury.
And, as stated above, I learned a great deal more by experiencing different coach and team results over the years.

At Home Fitness consultant Aaron Dorksen’s blog deals with a variety of fitness topics, ranging from workout tips, motivational ideas and feature stories on how exercise impacts people’s lives. Consult a doctor before making any significant changes in your exercise routine or diet. E-mail him with comments, questions or ideas for future blogs at

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