Baseball was my true love as a kid, but I have great memories of playing hockey and soccer too, and loved cheering on my own children at different fields. As an educator and former coach, I strongly oppose sports specialization because I see wonderful things happen when kids play all kinds of sports.
Many experts agree, from sports medicine doctors to professional football coaches, as do many parents and athletes themselves. Here are my five core reasons:
- Fewer sports injuries: Different sports access different muscle groups. This story in Yale Medicine Review targeted women’s sports specifically, but the same holds true for all athletes.
- Greater competitive intelligence: Not only do different sports access different muscle groups, but they also hone different mental and emotional strengths key to competition. The New York Times reports that in this year’s N.F.L. draft, “90 percent of the players selected in the first round had been multi-sport athletes in high school.”
- Decreases burnout: From the same story, “studies have shown that the rates of injuries and burnout are significantly higher for athletes who pour all of their time and energy into one sport while their bodies are still developing.”
- Opportunity for exploration and discovery: Youth is a time for discovery—on the field and in the classroom. Even more, youth is the time to discover what’s inside you. In order to find out what you love, you have to try it, and as educators and parents, we need to protect the “play” in sports.
- Specialization works on a fixed as opposed to a growth mindset: Sports—especially in school—lose their magic when reduced to wins and losses. I am all in favor of excellence, but I also believe that the pressure to be the best instead of reaching for your own personal best now plagues our society. Teamwork, mentorship, resilience—believing that you can be part of something bigger than yourself—these fade into the background when students grind away at one sport their whole lives.
In the words of Clemson’s football coach Dabo Swinney, “I see it all the time; They’ve been to every clinic, every camp, every teaching session, and everything’s been squeezed out of them. There’s just not that much room for them to get any better.”
Want to learn more? St. Luke’s parents can join us March 2nd for…
A Healthy Approach to High School Sports
Thursday March 2nd 6-730pm Fireplace Commons
Listen to our panel of experts address a variety of concerns for student athletes. The topics will include:
Concussion Education by Neuropsychologist Dr. Christina Kunec, Director of Stamford Health Concussion Center
Preventing overuse injuries by Dr. Daphne Scott, Primary Care Sports Medicine at Hospital for Special Surgery
Sports Psychology by Psychologist Alex Diaz, Ph.D.
Please RSVP by Tuesday February 28th to Anna Knechtel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead. Come visit us!