There is no easy answer to the question, “are multi-sport athletes better than single-sport athletes?” It’s a loaded question, and every athlete is different; the simple answer is – it depends.
One of the biggest debates in today’s youth sports culture is whether athletes are best to specialize in one sport or try their hands at participating in multiple sports. With today’s prevalence, access, and influence of club-based sports, we’re seeing more of our high school athletes specialize at an earlier age.
Playing team sports is a great way to teach kids life lessons about teamwork, leadership, and literally how to play well with others. Sports are also a great way to learn new physical skills and build self-esteem. If you’re a parent of a young athlete, you’re probably already wondering what the world of sports is going to look like for your little.
Introducing your child to a variety of sports when they’re young is smart. While soccer may have been your go-to sport, maybe you’re raising a budding tennis star. “Because of the increasingly competitive nature of high school sports, some parents enroll kids in multiple teams or use private trainers so their kids can play one sport year-round,” said Dr. Ryan Foreman, a specialist at OSMC. “While single sport specialization sounds like a good way to increase your child’s skills, it may do more harm than good in the long run.
“Offering a variety of athletic options to your child is smart,” explained Dr. Foreman. “When your child participates in multiple sports, they are exposed to multiple coaches and coaching styles. They use a variety of muscle groups. Cross-training offers different environments and different challenges, all of which are so beneficial to your child. Playing multiple sports offers benefits such as fostering a love of different activities that can last their entire lives.”
Keep in mind that for every single-sport and multi-sport athlete, knowing limits is essential for optimal performance. “Every athlete is different, and there are some real risks and rewards for specializing too early,” Dr. Foreman explained. “The same goes for playing too many sports. Some athletes benefit from playing multiple sports in a year while other athletes need a break between seasons. At OSMC, at least half of the athletic injuries we treat are related to overuse.”
Dr. Foreman said the problem with specialization is that your teen might overuse certain muscle groups, which can make your kid prone to injury. Young athletes should take at least one season off from their primary sport every year and be sure to rest at least one day every week.
Whether you’re raising a single-sport or multi-sport athlete, make sure their training includes the time to rest and recover. At least one day a week, your athlete needs to take a break both physically and mentally.
Concerned about your child’s sports injury? Call (574) 264-0791
to schedule an appointment with a doctor at an OSMC office today — no referral needed!