How many sports is a good thing?
There’s been a lot of, mostly negative, commentary written about having young athletes concentrate on one sport and one sport only. If the grumpy commentator is like me (well into middle age) there’s usually a lot of nostalgic waxing about how “back in the day you’d play 2, 3 even 4 sports” throughout any given year. (My personal 4 sports/year era lasted all of 2 or 3 years. )
Now it seems like, and pontificators bemoan the fact, by the time an athlete reaches his or her teens, their focus has been sharply narrowed down to just one sport. For whatever reason or reasons, valid or crazy, there’s no denying that this is the pervasive trend; particularly at the high school level, where a recent survey found that 80% of the athletes feel that single sport specialization helps performance.
Sure, you have the occasional phenom who grew up in some far off country playing soccer and now tearing it up on the hard courts of the NCAA. But the single sport athlete, like it or not, is the new norm.
What about the multi-sport coach?
But I never, until recently, thought about, well, kind of the inverse of that. What’s the status of the multi-sport coach? Is he or she a dying breed? Again, particularly at the high school and youth levels. At higher levels, time and money are the driving factors to singular sport focus; even Division III coaches are now understood be best focused on one sport. (Dodgeball, a gym class staple, is not a recognized sport for our purposes herein, although inarguably better than badminton.)
So where do we find today’s multi-sport marvels? Mostly at the youth level. When kids and coaches are young (well, kind of) and their “hearts are an open book”. The truth be told, the modern day multi-sport coach is virtually unchanged. Because most are, first and foremost, parents. The volunteer parents of team sports.
Sure, they may be a little more interested in the goings on during baseball (or softball) season for personal reasons, (“I want to make sure that he/she is taught to play the game the right way.”); but the vast majority of these volunteer coaches are just there to help out. The head coach, the community, you name it.
So while single sport athletes are on the rise, even at the youth level, I guess some comfort can be found in the continued prevalence, the gritty durability of the true multi-sport masters: The volunteer parents.