Sunday, January 17, 2016

Multi Sport Athletes Among the Most Elite

Welcome to the 21st century, the age of national obsession with sports of all kinds. Let's face it, high school, collegiate, and professional sports are a integral part of the American society and athletes are always on the hunt to advance to the next level. Gaining a competitive edge may involve higher intensity training or using a certain pill or powder to enhance athletic performance. But is there another way for collegiate and professional athletes to achieve a higher level of athletic ability? Could the answer be as simple as playing multiple sports throughout the early part of the athletic career?

If you know me, there’s one thing you know for certain, and that is I love basketball. If you’ve ever met me, you also know that I don’t look like a basketball player. A natural red head and standing at only five feet two inches on a good day, obviously my position as a player was not the post. With that said, I have coached high school basketball over four years. During my coaching days, multiple times an athlete would quit other sports, to focus on one sport year round[EV1] . I could never comprehend the concept of specifically focusing on one sport, and never understood why other coaches and parents would advocate for it. I think there is a perception among young athletes, as well as some parents and coaches, that concentrating on one sport will automatically create the next Kobe Bryant or Mia Hamm. Unfortunately, that perception could not be more incorrect.

Lets dig deeper to why coaches and parents need to advocate for multi sports athletes. First, specializing in one sport year round can lead to a high rate of burn out and increase injury risk because of repeated use of the same muscle groups. Focusing on multiple sports can lead to greater athletic and creative ability, a lower rate of burn out, decrease injuries, and improve mental toughness. In fact, diversified sports training during early and middle adolescence may be more effective in developing elite-level skills, according to a recent report from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine.

In high school I played basketball and soccer, followed by AAU basketball in the spring. In retrospect, I wish someone would have pushed me to participate in track.  Track is a great way to increase speed, endurance and plyometric ability (all traits a small basketball player like myself need). Still not convinced? I’ll let the professionals speak for themselves.

·         John Elway: NFL Quarterback Hall of Fame: was an exceptional baseball player.
·         Abby Wambach: "Playing basketball had a significant impact on the way I play the game of soccer," Wambach said. "I am a taller player in soccer, in basketball I was a power forward and I would go up and rebound the ball. So learning the timing of your jump, learning the trajectory of the ball coming off the rim, all those things play a massive role."
·         Kyle Rudphol: Minnesota Vikings tight end was an exceptional multi sport athlete in high school.
·         Urban Meyer: The Ohio State University football coach. Since coaching at OSU 42 of the 47 athletes Meyer recruited were multi sport athletes in high school.
·         Michael Jordan: Arguably the best basketball player to play in the NBA played triple A baseball. Although Michael never excelled in baseball as he did in basketball.
·         Russell Wilson: Played professional baseball for the Texas Rangers before becoming the Seattle Seahawks All-Star Quarterback.
·         Tony Strudwich, Manchester United Performance Coach: “More often than not, the best athletes in the world are able to distinguish themselves from the pack thanks to a range of motor skills beyond what is typically expected in a given sport.”

These are just a few of the many professional athletes and coaches that have played multiple sports throughout their career and continue to advocate it. If you are a coach of any sport, for any age group or parent, I strongly encourage you to promote multiple sports to young athletes, whether it be swimming, soccer, lacrosse, track, dance or gymnastics.

Thanks for reading!
Your intern,
Alli Bokenkotter

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 [EV1]I would somehow connect your love of coaching to going back to the one vs. multiple sport thing. Or separate the paragraphs. Or something. You’ll figure it out J