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“Are my kids doing enough? Are my kids doing too much? What about college… Doesn’t my kid need to focus on the sport they excel at the most in order to get a scholarship?” There has been much said on both sides of the issue of the multi-sport athlete. There are coaches who would encourage an athlete to only participate in a single sport (usually the one they coach) year-round. There are parents who feel like the kid needs a break and should only participate in one sport. There’s the kid who wants to do it all. What is the “right way?” I have a few things I’d like to bring out in the open and at the end you can determine where you stand for yourself. 

It is a fascinating thing that this topic was never really discussed when I was growing up. There seems to be a shift that has happened between my generation and the new millennials as it pertains to “play.” What I mean is that we played differently than kids do today. When I was growing up we played outside. We played basketball, football, baseball, soccer, street hockey, and four square. We climbed trees. We had relay races. We “hopped fences” with loose dogs to retrieve balls that had gone over. We ran from stray pit bulls in route to the neighborhood park.

There was an understood reality that you played whatever everyone else was playing and you actually tried to be good enough to win. We didn’t need it to be an official game on a team because we were getting out of it what has proven to be beneficial for us that day. This form of play developed in us a competitive attitude that carried over into whatever field we ended up exploring. The benefits that we actually experienced parallel to what studies have shown. The bottom line is, the multi-sport athlete (MSA) is the way to go. 


1. Injuries

One of the reasons why I endorse this philosophy is that MSA’s tend to get injured less often. Playing a single sport year-round forces athletes to use the same muscle groups and movements repeatedly. Studies have shown that strengthening different muscle groups through multiple sports is healthier. There was a study conducted that looked at NBA first round draft picks. It examined how many of them played a single sport in high school versus those who played multiple sports. The result was that players who played multiple sports were less likely to be injured than the single sport athlete. 

2. Competitors

I’ve also learned that college coaches are actually more interested in players who play multiple sports because they have more of a tendency to always compete. Coaches like Jim Harbaugh (University of Michigan) and Urban Meyer (former Ohio State coach) are two among many coaches who only recruit MSA. Harbaugh actually has his recruits play dodgeball, field baseballs, and play soccer at his camps. He says that “youngsters aren’t playing multiple sports as they once did, so you like to test them that way.”

3. Versatility

Multi-sport athletes are often more versatile and more capable of picking up new skills than those who play one sport. They usually can adjust to different positions faster and more effectively. Many recruits are asked to change their position when they arrive to college particularly for football. This has proven to be beneficial for players in that they usually achieve very high accolades personally and their versatility follows them to the pros where they’ll be asked to change positions again. 

4. Growth

Another benefit of the MSA is that they have more potential for improvement. When athletes play one sport, they run the risk of reaching their “ceiling” much faster than the MSA. The reason is because when you’re an MSA, you are forced to stop playing a sport when the season is over. This means you wouldn’t train for an entire year; leaving you with more room to grow and improve. One of my favorite things to tell athletes is this: “NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE ABILITY TO GET BETTER!” You can always improve and playing multiple sports will ensure that you have to work at it. 

5. Coachability

Another factor to consider is that MSA’s have the potential to be more coachable than their single sport counterparts. This reality is an extreme benefit and probably got my attention more than any other. Every sport is different and typically requires a certain style of coach for each one. For example, my coaching style probably won’t work for golf. I remember playing for Coach Rick Majerus and how difficult it was on so many levels. I remember wanting to quit and thinking, “this is not worth it.” Fast-forward to today and I realize that since playing for Rick, I have been able to play for any coach and work for any boss! He prepared me to deal with any type of personality and style. 

This blog clearly lands on one side of the argument and I’m not naïve enough to say that this line of thinking doesn’t come with some valid push back, but I ascribe to the philosophy of the MSA and have adopted it as part of our athletics philosophy and value system at Intermountain Christian School. Here is how it reads:

“We value our multi-sport athletic approach. We believe there is great value in our athletes participating in multiple sports and are committed to encourage and integrate this philosophy into our school’s culture.  With this approach, our athletes are able to gain different kinds of skills they can apply from one sport to the next. This approach has also proven to enhance hand-eye coordination, balance, endurance, explosion, communication, and athletic agility. The athlete is also able to avoid injuries from overuse.”

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Written by: Tim Drisdom, Athletic Director at Intermountain Christian School


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