Jack of All Trades vs A Specialist

What is a jack-of-all-trades type of athlete? A jack-of-all-trades type of athlete is a well-rounded athlete. They are average at every skill, but not great at any. You could also say they are good at every skill but not great at any. For example, a basketball player could be good at shooting, dribbling, passing, rebounding, and playing defense, but not exceptionally great at any of these skills. 

The advantage of being a well-rounded athlete is that you have no weaknesses. Without having weaknesses, it is harder for opponents to beat you because they have a harder time forcing you into mistakes. With no weaknesses, you are more reliable, consistent and are less prone to having slumps. Well-rounded athletes are less reliant on one specific skill, so if one skill isn't working well on a certain day, they can rely on the other skills that they have.

The disadvantage of being just a well-rounded athlete is that you have no notable strengths.  Without any exceptional strengths, it is harder to make a significant impact in games. It is harder to be a playmaker and be dominant. While a well-rounded athlete is less likely to "beat themselves," they are also less likely to proactively win games. While well-rounded athletes and teams are more likely to beat the teams that they are supposed to beat, they are also less likely to pull off an upset against a superior team.

What is a specialist type of athlete? A specialist is an athlete that is great or even amazing at a limited number of skills but are average or below average at every other skill. For example, a basketball player could be a very good three point shooter, but they could be an average-to-poor passer, dribbler, rebounder, and defender. 

The pros and cons of being a specialist are inverse of the pros and cons of being a jack-of-all-trades type of athlete. The advantage of being a specialist is that you can use your special skill or skills to positively impact a game, make plays, and dominate. For example, a great shooter can have a hot night and score 30+ points. With this kind of ability, a specialist or a specialist type of team has an easier time playing "out of their minds" and pulling upsets against superior opponents.

However, the disadvantage of being a specialist is that you are less reliable and consistent. If your special skill gets shut down by your opponents, all you have left is your average-to-poor skills. For this reason, specialists tend to be streaky and are more prone to having slumps. They are more likely to pull of an upset, but they are also more likely to get upset themselves and lose to an inferior opponent.

As you can see, jack-of-all-trades type of athletes are low risk, low reward, while specialists are high risk, high reward. So which is better? It depends on what you want. Ideally, a team has a balance of both types of players so they can benefit from the pros of both types.

However, there is a third type of athlete that is both well rounded and also a specialist. Sometimes, an athlete is great or amazing at every skill. You can simply call them the "best" athletes. The best athletes are both well rounded and have special skills. Perhaps the best examples of these kinds of athletes are Lebron James in basketball, Roger Federer in tennis, and Christiano Ronaldo in soccer. Each of these athletes have amazing strengths yet seem to also have no weaknesses. This is what makes them so exceptional. They have the pros of well-rounded athletes and specialists, and none of the cons. They are reliable/consistent, and can also dominate. They hardly ever lose games that they shouldn't lose and they can win games against superior teams.

What is the point of this blog post? Am I trying to figure out which type of athlete is the best?Well obviously the "best athletes" are better than both the well-rounded athletes and the specialists. So shouldn't this be the goal of every athlete? Shouldn't every athlete aim to be well-rounded and have special strengths. Of course they should. Unfortunately, this is unrealistic. Not every athlete can be this way. This is because time is scarce. The average athlete doesn't have the time-commitment to become great at every skill. The best athletes are only great at every skill because they have dedicated their whole lives to their sport, accumulating tens of thousands of hours of training since they were small kids. Not every athlete is willing or able to do this. Therefore, most athletes need to pick and choose which skills to emphasize in training. If you only have so much time to invest in your athletic development, you have to choose which type of athlete do you want to be. Do you want to develop each and every skill gradually and evenly and become a well-rounded athlete? Or do you want to specialize in a small amount of skills while ignoring other skills? These are the decisions that you have to make at first during your teenage years of being an athlete. As you get older, if you want to continue training into your twenties and thirties, then you can work your way into becoming the "best athlete" by continuing to build strengths and fix weaknesses.