Friday, February 20, 2015

Value of playing Multiple Sports

Do you remember when you were a kid playing sports?  For some of us, it seems like only yesterday (and others have a very fog memory).  In Texas, there were basically four seasons.  The first season was football, next came basketball, and then came track followed by softball or baseball.

We played for the local city recreational team.  At the end of the season the coaches would get together and pick the top players from each team to create an All-Star squad.  The All-Star Team would play the champion of the league.  The winner of that game would then go and play other teams from nearby towns.  However, none of the games interfered with the “next season”.

Recently my sister asked my daughter why she was leaving basketball practice early.  My daughter responded, “I’m off to softball practice.”  My sister looked at me and said, “Really, you have her going to two practices in one night?”  Of course, she knew the answer and what is funny about it is that in about two weeks my daughter will be also add volleyball to the mix.

Softball is my daughter’s primary sport, however, she enjoys playing all of the sports she possibly can.  Even though it is a grind on carting her to and from each practice and juggling conflicting games; I feel playing multiple sports continues to benefit my daughter in her development as a healthy athlete.

Nowadays, it is pretty common for players to play multiple sports, and with the emergence of the “Select World” or “Travel Ball” they play multiple sports year around.  However, there are some who think that keeping their child in one sport over all others will give them a distinct advantage.

This blog is not going to dive into the “Select Sports” segment playing year around, but will talk about the advantages of playing more than one sport.

Some famous multisport athletes are people like Troy Aikman (Hall of Fame 3-time Super Bowl Winner for the Cowboys was also drafted by the New York Mets in baseball), Terry Bradshaw (Hall of Fame quarterback for the Pittsburg Steelers who set the national record by throwing the javelin 244 feet 11 ¾ inches), Jim Brown ( an All-American in lacrosse, played basketball, and ran track at Syracuse University and is currently in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Lacrosse Hall of Fame, and College Football Hall of Fame), local great Marquise Goodman (NFL receiver and kickoff returner was an Olympic long jumper and 2-time NCAA champion in the sport), Ed “Too Tall” Jones (who briefly retired from football to become a boxer, with a 6-0 record as a heavyweight, before returning to the Dallas Cowboys), Herschel Walker (participated in the 1992 Winter Olympics as a bobsled pusher, ran track at the University of Georgia and is currently a mixed martial arts competitor as well as a famous running back for the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings), and Russell Wilson (who is currently a Super Bowl winner with the Seattle Seahawks, and in the Texas Rangers Baseball organization).  I don’t even need to mention Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson or Jim Thorpe as most readers know their story.

Babe Didrikson is considered the greatest female athlete of all-time.  She was a great golfer winning 41 LPGA events and 11 majors, an All-American basketball player, and she won two track and field gold medals in the 1932 Olympics.  If she had not died of cancer at 42, she probably would have competed professional in a lot more sports.

Marion Jones was well-known for her multiple medals in Olympic competition, but in college she led the North Carolina Tar Heels basketball team to a 92-10 record during her three years on the team, including a National Championship in 1994.  She is an All-American point guard, ranks 5th on the UNC’s all-time assists list, third in steals, and 7th in blocks despite playing only 3 years.

More recently Liz Brenner of the Oregon Ducks became the first female Oregon athlete to letter in 3 sports since 1976 playing volleyball, basketball and softball.

Many college coaches are looking at multisport athletes because it brings a different type of athleticism to their respective sport they are coaching.

Coach Matt Kerwick of Cornell states, “We certainly see more well-rounded athletes who have an ability to accept different coaching styles.  They understand the dynamics of being on a team.  That’s not to say that we don’t like seeing athletes who are also involved in individual sports, where they have to have the discipline to push themselves to be their best.”

His sons even play multiple sports where he adds, “One of the things I love about having my kids involved in multiple sports and activities is the friendships they are making. Certainly, being physically fit and developing as athletes are also important benefits, but they are also learning lessons about being good teammates and working together as a group. And of course, it's important that they are having fun."

Janine Tucker, women’s lacrosse coach at Johns Hopkins states, “We prefer to recruit players who are multi-sport athletes for a variety of reasons, first among them the diversity of skill sets that they develop. It also allows opportunities to be leaders, to stay in good shape, to stretch themselves as athletes, communicators, teammates and leaders. Another benefit, maybe in one sport the kid shines and is a leader. In another sport, they may not be the superstar. So they learn to be humble, to be a good teammate and to support the go-to players. That's a tremendous benefit."  She also adds valuable advice to parents, "Of the recruits we see, one of the first questions I ask is, 'Do you play basketball?' If they do, they understand angles, footwork and how to get low on defense. Those are critical skill sets for basketball players that are engrained in their heads. We also love soccer players, because they can run all day. Those skill sets translate into our game. There's pressure for kids to specialize in lacrosse. I see it backfiring. Often it's the parents who want to their kids to specialize. That's dicey. A lot of these lacrosse recruits are on teams that go 20-0. If you play soccer and are on a .500 team, you learn to manage tough losses and pick yourself back up. That's an invaluable experience as you grow."

Scott Marr, coach at Albany probably sums it up the best, “What we like is the diversity that these kids experience — different rules, different skill sets, different coaching styles. They're not doing the same thing all the time, but learning and understanding different strategies and muscle memory. It strengthens the mind to learn different skills. And they may experience different roles on different teams, like being the best player on one team but a supporting player on another team. That can be valuable and gives them great perspective."  He adds, “Don't succumb to the pressure that your kid 'has to do this' to get to the next level. The myth is that if you miss this tournament or that camp that you won't make it. That's not true. I don't feel like you get the best out of kids when they are playing a sport nine months out of the year. Nothing feels really special anymore, because they are playing all the time and feel like they have to be at every tournament."

There are hundreds of articles that prove these points and one of the best described by David Epstein in a blog The Benefits of Playing Multiple Sports: A Conversation with David Epstein.

The Texas Travelers is one of the top girls’ select softball teams in North Texas and currently making a push to become the 10u ASA National Champions (held in Normal, Illinois).  On their roster, they have Volleyball, Basketball, Gymnasts, Soccer, Dancers, and Track stars.  This team is made up of competitive players who thrive in school, have strong confidence, and a great self-esteem.  All of these sports will contribute to well-rounded softball players, but more importantly, a skillset too, as these young girls face challenges of adolescence and eventually adulthood.

For more information about The Texas Travelers contact, Coach Kyle Bennett at 972.679.7702 or visit 04 Texas Travelers News Network.

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