Tino Villarreal - Saint Joseph Academy Athletic Director and Head Football Coach
I have had the honor of coaching thousands of students over the past sixteen years. During that time, I have seen changes in the world that have changed “the game”. The rise of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and “Club Teams” have directly impacted and affected kids’ decisions into specializing in one sport instead of playing multiple sports throughout the school year.
Long are the days where one played anything and everything over the summer. I can recall playing tennis some days or jumping in the pool for a swim with friends. We would shoot baskets everyday in the driveway then make phone calls looking for a five versus five (5v5) game - if not a one on one (1v1) game would suffice. I can also remember going to the Brownsville Country Club Golf Course after hours to play tackle football with the kids from around the block. No matter what the sport was, we played them all for fun. Once school started we played the sport of choice during that season (fall, winter, and spring). All of my friends played at least two sports but most played three.
Today’s world has created a business in sports and boy, it starts early on. There are showcases for children as young as eight years old or club/select teams that encourage 8U, 10U and so on to play that specific sport year round. There are experts out there that all want a repeat client that they can work with for twelve months a year.
I understand the club or select coach who has promised your child a potential D1 scholarship if they “commit year round.” I also know there are scheduling conflicts and too many practices/games you have to haul your child to on a weekly basis. Maybe you really do want your child to have the best chance at playing at the next level.
However, as Athletic Director of a small private school, I always encourage our athletes to play multisports all year long. There are three main reasons that I believe outweigh specializing in one sport.
- Avoid Emotional Burn-Out: If you train the same thing everyday for years, I have seen even the best site “burnout” as a reason why they have to take a long break from the sport, or simply why they fall out of love. Going to practices become a chore and performance usually suffers. The last thing anyone wants is to see their kids fire die and losing the love playing their favorite sport. Playing Multiple sports can expose Athletes to some good changes in their daily life.
Exposure to different personalities: Every sport is different and the chemistry on those teams differs as well. The more sports your child plays the different types of friends they will meet and make.
Exposure to different coaching personalities: Playing different sports also changes the style of coach you will have. Sometimes playing for a very strict coach is balanced by playing for a “players-coach.” All coaches will have a positive impact on your child but all coaches are different in their approach. Having many role models is healthy.
Exposure to different roles: Your child might be the best in their favorite sport but may have to learn to be a role player in another one. Sometimes your son/daughter might never see one minute on the bench but also in another sport may beg just to see one minute on the field. Having both perspectives is important in their athletic and personal development.
- Fewer Risk of Overuse Injury: Studies have shown that playing the same sport over and over again increases the risk of injury. Repetitive motions create a sense of stagnation. Playing multiple sports changes the tempo, style and method of training where new muscles are being used daily, therefore reducing the risk of overuse.
- Not Putting All Your Eggs in One Basket: If you make a decision early on in high school to specialize in one sport you may end up losing out on becoming the best you can be at another sport. So many professional athletes played multiple sports and were offered scholarships for multiple sports; it was until that moment that they had to choose. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, if you are a phenom they will find you.
I urge parents and student-athletes to reconsider specializing in one sport. As someone who is in direct communication with college coaches and scouts, I can assure you that they all share the same mindset. No matter what the sport is, college coaches are all interested in those who ventured out and played multiple sports. I always tell families, if you are good they will find you. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars getting “exposure.” Enjoy life as a young person, play them all, and make as many friends as possible.