By Ken Reed
We’ve written several times through the year about the negatives of early sport specialization.
This time we’ll take a slightly different approach by focusing on the positives of young people playing multiple sports.
1. Playing Multiple Sports Improves Overall Athleticism
Playing multiple sports develops different muscles, increases flexibility and enhances movement, all of which are helpful as athletes progress in any sport.
“The more pathways that the body makes between the brain and the muscles helps improve the athlete’s ability to move in a lot of different ways,” says Michele LaBotz, a sports medicine physician.
As an example, individual sports like surfing and skateboarding help improve balance and agility, which is beneficial as a foundation for developing more sport-specific skills.
2. Kids That Sport Sample Have a Greater Chance of Becoming Lifelong Athletes
Participating in a variety of sports — both team and individual — when young increases the chances children will become active adults.
In addition, research has shown that children who grow up in active families are more likely to become active adults.
Kids with parents who are active and participate with them in sports and other physical activities are likely to do the same when they grow up and have their own children.
3. Multi-Sport Athletes Outperform Single Sport Specialists Once They Pick a Sport to Focus On
Multi-sport athletes aren’t only generally healthier than single sport athletes, they are also better at building sport-specific skills in a sport they may choose to focus on down the road.
The benefits of playing multiple sports when young aren’t just physical, they are also mental. The mental skills developed through playing a variety of sports — team and individual — when young pay off in the high school and college years if an athlete chooses to focus on one sport.
4. Multi-Sport Athletes Have a Lower Injury Risk
Young athletes that specialize in a single sport are not only more likely to drop out of that sport by their teen years, they are more prone to injury.
Focusing on one sport builds imbalances in muscles, ligaments, etc., and leads to overuse injuries. Injury risk is lowered by playing sports that require different movements and muscle groups (e.g., throwing and raquet sports for the upper body and soccer, basketball and running sports for the lower body).
In addition, single-sport athletes can develop certain body image standards for their one sport, which can lead to psychological issues with body image and disordered eating problems. That’s less of a risk factor with multi-sport athletes.
5. Multi-Sport Athletes Have More Time to Pick a Sport They Want to Eventually Specialize In
Young athletes are still discovering who they are and what they are passionate about. A child at 10 years old may prefer one sport but change his or her mind a couple years later.
In addition, young athletes’ bodies will change as they grow and they might find that their body type is more conducive to a sport other than the one they initially chose to focus on.
Parents who expose their children to multiple sports and other physical activities at a young age are helping their young athletes figure out where their talents and passions are and what the best sports fit might be for them.
LaBotz is a strong supporter of multi-sport participation for children and teenagers.
“I make a comparison with other healthy behaviors,” says LaBotz.
“For example, carrots are healthy, and if a kid likes carrots, that’s great and should be encouraged. But if your kid is only eating carrots, that’s not good. They need more variety in their diet. The same is true for physical activity: Variety is a key component and too much of a good thing is not a good thing.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman, and has a long involvement with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport (now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition). We discuss the state of college athletics today, given the pressures of NIL, the transfer portal, sports gambling and huge media contracts. McMillen then provides great perspective on the poor state of physical fitness our young people are experiencing today.
Listen on Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Anchor and others.
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More Episodes on Apple Podcasts; Spotify; Google Podcasts; PocketCasts; & Anchor
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
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.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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