Article Submitted By: Gregg Williams – Sports Performance Specialist (SPS)
Last month I was asked a question by a group of parents. One week later I was asked the same question by two more parents. Then four days later, I was asked the exact same question.
This question has become more common and crucial among parents with children who are involved in sports.
If you haven’t figured out the big question yet, it may not come to you as a surprise. The question; should my child (ren) focus on one sport or play multiple sports? I will do my best to answer while staying within the scope of my specialty.
My specialty is sports performance, exercise science, strength and conditioning, post rehabilitation, and human kinetics. Even though sports psychology is out of scope, I will address issues relating to that component.
Being a former college athlete and having two sons, 10 and 11, who are involved in sports, I will share scientific information along with practical advice. Let’s look at the question from a scientific side first.
Playing one sport, will allow and help the young athlete to develop muscle and coordination for that sport. As we know, muscle has memory. If a kid kicks a soccer ball 100 times a day, he/she will develop those kicking muscles. The brain will send a message to remind the muscle how to perform the action. Thus, the athlete becomes a better kicker.
However, if the young athlete plays multiple sports, he/she will improve all around. Neurologically the brain sends multiple messages thus making the athlete better at multiple muscle assignments. They become better athletes; improve even more in coordination, balance, quickness, even strength.
Have you ever observed or heard about a great college athlete or professional athlete. You watch him/her and they are fast, quick, agile and flexible. There’s a reason for that ability. In most cases they were a 2-3 sport athlete. They developed good eye-hand coordination and good dexterity. By now, you can tell that I am a believer in multiple sports. However, like anything, too much of something is not good.
When children are so involved that they have no social life, no time to just relax, no time to rest joints, no time for sleep, you are then doing the child a disservice and sports performance become counterproductive.
As parents, coaches, and trainers, we must be careful of “overdoing it”. We must avoid over training. I have seen and experienced many times working with young athletes who want to be successful but are simply burned out or exhausted.
If you are a parent, coach, or even a trainer and this article is of interest and concern, good for you. That tells me that you want what is best for that little athlete desiring to fulfill his/her athletic dreams. So how do you successfully achieve this goal in a society where sports are king and top priority? Well, here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Realize that it’s about the child (ren) and it’s their dream or goal.
2. Talk to your child; communicate your support for what they want to do.
3. Watch for changes in mood such as irritable.
4. Watch for difficulty eating or sleeping.
5. Watch for changes in grades.
6. Avoid too much pressure, pressure can be a plus, but too much may be too stressful for children.
7. Also keep a line of communication open with the coach and trainer.
Now let me give you some good training tips to help get the best out of your athlete.
1. Do multiple types of training, such as weight resistance, balance, plyometric, and speed drills.
2. Make sure those young ones are eating healthy and enough. Being busy sometimes keeps the athlete from eating.
3. Supplements are good, such as a good multi-vitamin
4. Drink plenty of water
5. They must get rest. Sleep is the best way to repair muscle tissue and avoid injuries.
6. Last but not least make sure they enjoy the sport.
So parents, if you truly want a well-balanced good young athlete who can perform well, get them involved in two or more sports. Remember; it’s their dream after all.