The Seven Benefits of Playing Multiple Sports

One of the most common mistakes parents make is having their kids specialize in a single sport starting at a young age. They think that this will help give their kids an advantage over their competition, but in most cases, it does not. In fact, they would help their kids much more by encouraging them to play a wide variety of sports. Here are the seven benefits of playing multiple sports.

1. Playing multiple sports helps you find which sports you're best at and which sports you like most. Many times, parents assume they know which sport is best for their kids. For example, a parent may think that basketball is best for their kid, so they have them specialize in basketball at a young age. Sometimes this works out well, but it usually doesn't. Many times, a kid will come to realize that they don't really love the sport that their parent picked for them. This often happens when a kid is forced to focus on a single sport without having a say in which sports they play or how much they focus on them. But even if a kid loves the sport that their parents made them specialize in, they may find out later that they don't actually have the right physical traits or personality to succeed at that specific sport. It may be that their specific skill set is better suited for a different sport, but they'll never know this if they didn't experiment with many sports as a kid. This is why parents need to encourage their kids to play many sports as a kid. This is the only way a kid can discover which sport is truly best for them. Once they find the sport that they love the most and is best suited for them, then specialization becomes much more beneficial.

2. Playing multiple sports makes you a better overall athlete. By playing many sports as a kid, you'll develop a wide variety of physical skills. You'll grow stronger, faster, more athletic, and more coordinated. The physical skills you develop in other sports can, to a certain degree, be transferred over to your main sport.

3. Playing multiple sports helps prevent injuries. Since playing multiple sports helps balance the muscle growth of your body and also helps you avoid over-stressing certain muscle groups, you'll be less likely to suffer injuries later in your athletic career.

4. Playing multiple sports makes you a mentally tougher athlete. By playing a wide variety of sports, you'll develop a wide variety of mental skills. Each sport has its own mental and emotional challenges. For example, in football, you need to be able to tolerate a lot of physical pain and discomfort, which takes a lot of mental toughness. And in a sport like tennis, you need to be able to perform individually under a lot of pressure, which also takes a lot of mental toughness. By playing multiple sports, you can train your mental toughness in ways that you couldn't by just playing one sport. Since playing multiple sports opens you up to a wide variety of pressure situations, you'll develop more coping skills that you can use to perform better under pressure in your main sport. Overall, playing many sports can improve your effort, attitude, pain tolerance, concentration, emotional regulation, and decision making skills.

5. Playing multiple sports makes you a better leader and teammate. B playing a wide variety of sports, you'll gain more leadership skills. Since you'll have more experience playing with different kinds of teammates, you'll develop better relationship and communication skills, which will make you a better teammate. For instance, playing many sports can teach you how to settle conflicts with your teammates and put the team first. Also, by getting yourself used to a wide variety of coaches, you can make yourself more coachable, which will help you a ton in the future.

6. Playing multiple sports improves your mental health. By playing a wide variety of sports, you'll get to experience more joy as a child. Not only this, but you'll also make more friends and more memories. You're also more likely to develop a better relationship with your parents. If you only play one sport during your entire childhood, you're more likely to burnout and lose your passion for sports. Playing the same sport over and over can get tiring and boring at times. To maintain your motivation and mental health, you need to mix it up more by playing many sports. As we all know, the healthier and happier your childhood is, the mentally healthier you'll be later in life. And the mentally healthier you are, the better you'll perform in your main sport.

7. Playing multiple sports sets you up for long-term success, in and out of sports. For all of these reasons, playing multiple sports sets you up for long-term success. By making you more athletic, mentally tougher, a better leader, and mentally healthier, you'll have more success in whatever sport you decide to specialize later in life. Not only this, but playing multiple sports will give you the life skills you need to excel in areas outside of sports. The lessons you learn, such as hard work, patience, resiliency, responsibility, leadership, courage, and humility can be applied to every aspect of your life. They can help you in school, in your relationships, and in your career. Furthermore, you never know how playing multiple sports can benefit you later in life. Perhaps the many sports you play as a kid become hobbies you enjoy for your whole life. Perhaps the experience you have playing a sport opens a door for you in the future. Maybe it leads you to make connections with people in the future, or maybe you'll coach that sport in the future. As you can see, playing multiple sports as a kid is definitely worth it in the long run!

Now that I've explained the benefits of playing multiple sports, I want to answer the following question: When should an athlete start focusing more on a single sport? I believe this is a complicated question that depends on many factors. But in general, I think kids shouldn't specialize in sports until they are around the age of 16. If you specialize too early, you'll miss out on all the benefits of playing many sports, but if you specialize too late, you may actually fall behind your competition. However, specialization doesn't mean you have to focus on a single sport exclusively for 365 days a year. Even if you are 16, 17, or 18 years old, you can still focus mainly on one sport for most of the year while also playing another sport during part of the offseason. There are many college and pro athletes who played multiple sports all throughout high school. Some of these athletes even played multiple sports in college. In most of these cases, playing a second sport helped them more than it hurt them.

Even if you're a pro athlete, I still think it helps to play different sports in the offseason as a form of cross-training. This doesn't mean you have to join an actual team, but you should incorporate other sports into your training, even if its just for fun.

Here is my final advice to athletes: 

Play many sports as a young kid. As you get older, gradually begin focusing more on one sport, but still try to play one or two other sports while in high school. Then, once you're a college or pro athlete, incorporate other sports into your offseason training. Doing all of this will help maximize your long-term success as an athlete and as a person!