Playing Various Sports – The Definition of a Knowledgeable Athlete
After going through two weeks of jaw dropping plus watching the world’s greatest athletes perform their magic at the London Olympics, it begs the question – How do these guys do it? I mean, really, how much time and effort have they put into their preparation for the lifetime achievement of being an Olympian? Surely, they must have started since they were very young, right?
So started a lot of conversation around our house watching these incredibly talented guys break records in the pool, on the track and many other places at the London games. That’s why we generally have the notion that every elite athlete, be they Olympian or pro, must have trained specifically in that sport because they can barely walk.
Variety is the Spice of Life… for Sport
In an age of kids playing in travel leagues, having personal trainers and spending so much time on one sport, we have to ask ourselves if it makes sense to keep doing this or encourage kids to play more than one sport.
This also applies in sports. Many coaches who value their salt will point out the advantages of playing multiple sports as children. The variety that more than one sport can offer a young person continues to add to their enthusiasm. Some time off from sports helps a child look forward to the other sports they are playing, and consequently to the original sport as well.
For example, having kids play baseball from April to August, and then switching to soccer or soccer gives them enthusiasm for soccer and soccer.
They love baseball, but know that once baseball is over, they get a bit of a ‘mental’ break from the game and really get into their fall sport. They look forward to the transitions, new challenges, competition, and different social dynamics that they will experience as well.
All of these points contribute to their ability to grow as athletes as well as individuals.
The speed and aggressive attributes that a player acquires while playing soccer can improve his defense and base while the ball is running. The footwork players learn in basketball makes them better infielders when playing doubles next summer.
There are also mental lessons learned by playing many sports.
Learning how to play against bigger and tougher opponents in basketball provides insight into one’s tenacity, drive, and ability to think strategically in the game. Doesn’t that mean from sport to sport? Think again.
The different levels and types of competition provide players with many opportunities to learn how to work through diversity. These challenges present a unique opportunity to learn how to use your abilities and talents, both physically and mentally, to get as close to your best performance as possible. It is also a great confidence builder. Knowing that you are capable of hitting an excellent pitcher in baseball now begins to build your confidence as you take on the challenge of blocking the other team’s best defensive midfielders in football. Your belief in yourself increases, and increases your personal self-esteem as it relates to the sporting arena, but also as a person.
Success in sport breaks the chains that can keep performance levels locked in.
It also means freeing oneself personally. That is why you will see many stories about well-rounded athletes who played a variety of sports well in class as well as in their professional lives.
There are increasing numbers of reports of overuse injuries by children who specialize in one sport, rather than choosing to play in multiple athletics. There is a whole movement out there to stop overuse injuries, as they have become so common at such an early age. There is also evidence that playing lots of sports can lower the risk of childhood obesity.
Let’s take it one step further. Coaches seek competitiveness at the college level. They like the competitiveness developed in athletes who play multiple sports. In addition, many times they will see an athlete who has been a captain in various sports. It shows the leadership qualities a player has and contributes to his overall development as a person, which college coaches like.
Take Pete Carroll, head coach of the Seattle Seahawks and former coach of the National Championship team at USC. Coach Carroll points to the fact that,
“I want people who are very special athletically, so competitive that they can compete in more than one [sport] here at USC. It is very important that people are knowledgeable and only have competitive tendencies that they have to express somewhere. ”
Other coaches in different sports echoed the same comments. It is this competitive desire that is developed in a young athlete that drives them to excel on and off the sporting arena.
The variety that various sports programs bring throughout the year is, I believe, much greater than specializing in one sport. Take that variety and enjoy the many benefits it brings. As an athlete you will gain so much both intrinsically and on the court, court or ice.