I am often asked by parents if it is better for their child to play several sports throughout high school or to focus on just one. Well, I have two pieces of advice on this subject. First of all, you have to remember that kids only get to go through high school once. And it’s probably the last time in their life they will have the opportunity to play, participate, or simply enjoy sports other than the one(s) they want to compete in during college. In other words, if your daughter is a freshman and her favorite sport is field hockey but she also wants to try track for the fun of it, LET HER! Playing multiple sports can provide several benefits to the student-athlete.
Participating in multiple sports can provide cross training that can improve certain physical skills as well as mental toughness.
Multi-sport participation can also provide a “mental break” from the sport they focus on 9 months of the year. Many high school athletes need this kind of break so they don’t get “burned out” or suffer injury from “overtraining”. Once they get to college it will be one sport 24/7, 365 days a year.
Finally, what if they try another sport just for the fun of it and they become recognized as a “First Team All-State Selection”? That could make things very interesting and could turn out to be the best decision they ever made.
Now it’s true that “specializing” in one sport can have its advantages. It certainly allows the athlete to focus on sport-specific training and skills. But many college coaches say they prefer recruiting “well-rounded” multi-sport athletes. For example, when my son was in high school, in addition to being a star football player he was also a 2-time State Runner up in wrestling. College football coaches told us that because wrestling was such a mentally tough and challenging one on one sport, they believed the attributes he developed in wrestling would make him a more physical, tougher, and more disciplined football player.
The bottom line is this. I believe most high school athletes should enjoy several sports during their freshman and maybe sophomore years if they want to. Then, probably during their junior or certainly going into their senior year they should probably consider focusing on the one sport that will provide them a meal ticket to college. But with that said, remember that the junior year is the most critical year for recruiting when you are talking D-I and even some D-II schools.
There isn’t a right or wrong answer to this question. But, as a parent, make sure you listen to your child and allow them to make their own decision! It’s their life and whatever THEY decide should be most important. You don’t want your child to look back one day and regret having missed other experiences in high school because of you.