Multiple Teams · The Importance of Multi-sport Participation

By Mark Rerick

One of the biggest debates that has been pushed into today’s youth sports culture is whether athletes are best to specialize in one sport or try their hands at participating in multiple sports. Because of the prevalence, access, and influence of club based sports, we’re seeing more of our high school athletes specialize at an earlier age. In our post-season player surveys, I often read responses from underclassmen who are planning on dropping one sport in order to focus on their “main” sport the next year. As participation rates in most of our sports continue to decline, we try to actively combat this trend by pushing out information to our students.

Advocates of single sport specialization point to the “necessity” of year-round skill development in order to give athletes a chance at becoming good enough to play a sport beyond high school. While this method certainly works well for those who are naturally talented (see Tiger Woods or almost any Olympic gymnast), specialization still isn’t a guarantee for anything. In order to meet the goals of our educational-based programs, we focus on several other aspects of participation in our programs.

The main goal within our department is making sure the students are enjoying their time in our programs; we want them to have fun. If athletes want to play multiple sports, we’re hoping that the adults in their lives are encouraging them to play multiple sports. Too often, the pressure to specialize comes from an adult, either a coach or a parent. If less than seven percent of high school athletes move on to college sports (and only three percent earn an athletic scholarship), we need to focus our programming on the other 93 percent of our participants. If we have 500 participants in our high school, encouraging early specialization is only going to benefit roughly 35 of those athletes, and many of those 35 athletes would have moved on to college sports anyway. Since most athletes prefer multi-sport participation, we want to create a culture that encourages multi-sport participation.

Read the rest of the story on the NFHS website.