Recently, I had a student athlete, currently a multisport athlete in high school, ask me some questions about how playing more than one sport in high school and college would positively or negatively impact her recruiting process and the college experience. Many other athletes probably have similar questions about playing multiple sports. Here are some things to think about.
When, if at all, should I specialize and only play one sport?
How does being a multisport athlete affect my college recruiting outcome?
Is playing more than one sport in college even possible?
These are all great questions. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers because everyone’s situation is a little different, but there are important factors to consider when making a decision about being a multisport athlete.
There has been a lot of deliberation about this topic for many years. Some young athletes specialize when they are very young and others play multiple sports throughout high school, some even in college.
Hundreds of studies from people with years of experience have been published, yet there is still not one answer about when, or if you should, specialize.
In my own experience, I believe that multiple sports and cross-training have a positive effect on athletes, both physically and mentally, but there are times when specializing makes sense.
Here are a few of the benefits of not specializing too early.
Using different muscles in different activities helps us strengthen muscle groups and joint stability. If you only develop certain muscles in the same activities every day, you are likely to leave out some muscles, eventually causing imbalances and/or injuries later.
Playing the same sport from birth to college graduation is a long time. With the explosion of youth sports, some athletes are burned out by the time they get to college. Playing multiple sports gives the body a chance to recover.
Along with burnout, athletes need mental breaks. Changing sports helps create some change of scenery so that sports stay fresh.
If you're interested, check out some more information about the benefits of being a multisport athlete.
Being a multisport athlete can affect your recruiting process and outcome. Here are some positives and some challenges.
Great question. What if you are being recruited for two sports in college? Can you play two sports? Years ago, when athletic seasons were a little shorter, it was easier to consider playing two sports. Today, it is much harder. Still possible, but much harder. Seasons are longer and training has become a year-round process.
Here are some facts.
You are going to be extremely busy in college, no matter what college level you play. There are, however, different rules at different levels. For example, in Division I, coaches can work with you in the off-season, including the summers. Other divisions have more restrictions on when coaches can work with the players, allowing athletes to have more time to do other things.
You are going to need breaks in college. Your schedule is going to be rigorous, and it is going to push you out of your current comfort zone. Taking mental breaks is going to help you stay fresh. Starting as a freshman with two sports and academics is extremely challenging. Take a look at this guide: A Day In The Life Of A Student Athlete.
College coaches do not have an easy time sharing you with other coaches and sports. Certainly, everyone wants you to enjoy your college experience, but coaches' jobs rely on you being completely invested in their sport. It will be tough to do that when practices, seasons and commitments of playing two sports overlap.
You used to be able to possibly play a fall sport and then a spring sport. The seasons were opposite. Today, fall sports, like golf, track, volleyball and softball, all have fall and spring seasons, so those athletes are busy in both seasons and then train in the winter. Winter seasons overlap with both fall and spring seasons. This overlap makes it difficult to be fully present in two sports.
If it were me, I would choose one sport in college and go for it. Invest fully in that sport and use what breaks you get from that sport to mentally recharge, network, study and prepare for your career after sports are over.
If you still think you might want to try two sports in college, I would say choose a college and coach where there are time restrictions for coaches in different sports and where you can still manage academics with a double load of playing two sports.
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