Should my child only play one sport?

Arick Zeigel
  • Author: Arick Zeigel
  • AJ Academy Head Golf Coach
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Joe Culverhouse
  • Author 2: Joseph Culverhouse
  • GLT Content and Communications Manager
2018 Draft

In the 2018 NFL Draft, 8 of the first 10 players drafted, including Baker Mayfield, the first player selected, were multisport athletes. Perhaps more impressively, 29 of the 32 players selected in the first round of the draft played another sport along with football while growing up. To put it another way, only 9 percent of the players drafted in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft specialized in football as a developing athlete.

While the numbers are fascinating on their own, with the trend of child athletes specializing in a single sport, playing it year-round with little or no break or time for other sports, the numbers become enlightening. While many parents consider specialization to be the best route to help a child reach elite status, the 2018 Draft numbers should be a sign that children shouldn’t play just one sport; however, this isn’t exactly an earthshattering revelation, there are plenty of other reasons kids should be encouraged to play as many sports as he or she desires.

A common problem you see with single sport athletes is overuse injuries. These are becoming alarmingly more and more common with young athletes. It seems like kids are having Tommy John (ulnar collateral) surgery on their throwing arms at younger and younger ages, as well as golfers having wrist or lower back issues before they’re even 18. Exposing these young athletes to other sports not only helps prevent these overuse injuries, but also gives them a much-needed break from the sport whether they want it or not. Growing up in Colorado I remember having to hang up my clubs for 3-4 months each year, and as much as it killed me, it also provided me time to play basketball, and when it got closer to golf season I was always fresh, more motivated and excited than ever to get back out there.

 

Jordan Spieth
Growing up, Jordan Spieth spent time on the baseball field as well as the golf course.

By playing multiple sports, the likelihood of kids becoming burned out and disinterested in any given sport is reduced drastically. Even when young athletes show promise or a deep passion for one particular sport, encouraging them to participate in other sports will help to prevent burnout at an early age. This is key if they are to play at a high level, whether it be collegiately or professionally, if they lose interest in the sport and loose that passion, then the trophies or scores they shot at a young age are completely irrelevant.

Being a multisport athlete does wonders for developing Fundamental Movement & Fundamental Sports Skills for juniors. The environment, competition and physical demands of basketball or baseball for example can help young golfers immensely in developing speed, hand eye coordination and even psychological characteristics of excellence needed to perform at a high level. Each sport has something to offer young athletes in their development regardless of which sport they choose as their passion.

Before becoming a Heisman-winning quarterback, Baker Mayfield also played baseball at Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas. Twenty two 2018 NFL first-round draftees also participated in track & field events, and 17 played basketball. On his way to becoming one of the most feared defensive players in the NFL, All-Pro Houston Texan J.J. Watt participated in basketball, baseball and track, depending on the season of the year. There is no clear cut path to becoming an elite athlete, and every child develops differently, but by allowing a junior athlete to be a kid and play as many different sports as he or she chooses, parents can help create the kind of well-rounded athletic skills that take coaches spend years trying to develop artificially. Think golf is the exception? Try telling that to Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas or Jordan Spieth, just to name a few multisport PGA Tour cardholders.

 

Baker Mayfield