There is a certain misconception out there in the world of youth sports. There is a belief that playing one sport will get there child that much desired scholarship. Parents are willing to throw their social lives away for travel teams and tournaments, spend thousands of dollars on club teams, and hire individuals like myself to improve their child's athletic performance. And then there are the "coaches" who enable and encourage this. These are the ones telling your kids that they need to specialize in one sport. They tell them this for selfish reasons. It's because of ego and fattening their pockets. These individuals value winning over coaching and it leads to poor development as the child grows older.
There is a story I have come across that speaks of the tall fourth grade girl. Now, because of her height, she is told by her coach that her job is to rebound the ball and play defense. Does she ever learn how to dribble? No need to, that is not in her job description. But as this girl grows older, she is no longer the tall one on the team. She is of average height now, but because of the lack of attention spent on dribbling and shooting growing up, she is no longer able to keep up with the other girls of similar height. This girl, and thousands of others, are playing sports in an environment not designed to make them better in the long term. They are caught up in an adult obsession to solely measure youth sport results in wins and losses, and it is killing athletics in our country. Teaching a tall 10 year old how to dribble and play guard will likely lose you a few basketball games today, but it will make that 10 year old a better basketball player later in life. The coach has to make a decision, do you want to teach these kids to become better basketball players or just try to win a game? If you ask me, the focus should be on excellence and development of young athletes, and let the winning come as a result of development, not in place of it.
There are some out there that believe playing the quarterback position is the toughest position in all sports. With that being said, wouldn't it make sense to spend a majority of your time focusing on that skill? That might not be the case. A recent study broke it all down for us: The study outlined 128 quarterbacks- 73 active, 55 retired- and out of 128, 122 of them played at least two sports in high school. Andrew Luck, the top young quarterback in the NFL, grew up playing soccer in Europe. The game of soccer taught him lessons on passing lanes and working the ball through tight windows. The same benefits are present in other sports like basketball, lacrosse, etc. These skills acquired through participating in other sports are often overlooked by parents and children. One theory to blame: the 10, 000 hour rule. Author Malcolm Gladwell popularized this rule and to put it simply, the rule states that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to achieve mastery. Unfortunately, this rule was taken literally.
My argument to Gladwell's theory is that each individual has their own physical capacity to perform a skill. If there is not variety in your training, you will reach your physical capacity early in life and "peak" at a younger age. But, if you vary your training you will enlarge your physical capacity. The more skills you learn and the stronger you get, the faster you will become, the more agile you will become, and the more powerful you will become. Once you begin to practice your sport with these new attributes, your physical capacity will expand and you will become better at your trade. Don't mistake activity for productivity. More practice doesn't always mean more success. Enlarge your skill set and watch your success grow to new heights!
There are many things that I am thankful for growing up. I had an older brother who participated in a variety of sports and because of that, was introduced to athletics at a young age. It was football, baseball and wrestling growing up, and when I got older, I replaced baseball with Track & Field. Between all of these sports, I feel like I learned every skill under the sun. The wrestling mat teaches you things physically that no other sport can replicate. Football teaches you a certain amount of toughness that you can't find on the wrestling mat. It is the kind of toughness that allows you to get tackled at full speed by two guys, and then get back up and do it again. Baseball taught me the importance of hand eye coordination and track & field is all over the spectrum. Running the hurdles was a combination of coordinating two skills (running & jumping) and being a thrower was all about power output for one individual effort. I was far from being a superstar, but when you get older and are grateful for all the relationships you built playing sports growing up, who really cares about how many games or matches you've won or lost. All that you remember is the relationships that you still have because of athletics!
Chris is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and member of the National Strength & Conditioning Association. He has recently served as a high school football and wrestling coach. Chris loves swinging kettlebells around, watching football and reading books!