By Ken Reed
The unfortunate trend in youth and high school sports the last couple decades is toward specialization. Young athletes have increasingly chosen to focus on a single sport in their developmental years, often as young as eight or nine years old. (Perhaps more accurately, they’ve been strongly encouraged — some may say forced — to play only one sport by parents and coaches.)
The popular belief is that only by specializing in one sport can athletes reach their full potential, land a college athletic scholarship, and perhaps one day, make it to the Olympics or pro sports. However, the evidence differs from this belief. Multi-sport athletes are generally more well-rounded athletically and advance further in the sport they ultimately choose as their preferred sport. In addition, studies have shown that multi-sport athletes have fewer injuries and experience burnout less often.
A recent study commissioned by the Women’s Sports Foundation, called “Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters,” found there were many benefits to sports participation relative to non-participation. Moreover, the study revealed that multi-sport athletes fared better than single sport athletes. Multi-sport athletes did better on key measures such as the amount of daily exercise, adequate sleep, and the likelihood of eating breakfast each morning.
“In many cases, there’s an amplified effect if they’re playing two or more sports,” said Nicole Zarrett, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at the University of South Carolina and one of the study’s co-authors.
The study also found that teens who participate in sports were more likely to have an A or A- grade average at school and more likely to plan on graduating from a four-year college. Additional benefits of sports participation include scoring higher than non-participants in psychological well-being. Athletes scored higher on measures including self-esteem, social support networks, and loneliness.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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