Multi-Sport Perspective from a Club Director
In today’s day, we are constantly bombarded with blogs, articles, and posts that are pro-multi sport athletes. We see the opinions and science behind the importance of it. Over my 16 years of coaching and working in both a high school and club coaching capacity, I have observed both sides of the debate. This article is to simply inform you that whatever the decision is, it is one that can have both positive and negative outcomes depending on the goals of the athlete. Hopefully this read will help athletes and parents get through making this tough decision.
As the Club Director of one of the largest volleyball organizations in the country, I am constantly asked my thoughts on multi-sport athletics. The best answer to this debate, comes from one of the best coaches and mentor’s I have ever worked with – Mark Kraatz. He was the Athletic Director at Allen Park Inter-City Baptist High School as well as the boys’ soccer (retired) and basketball (present) coach. He also is a HUGE multi-sport advocate. I believe he said it the best when he said, “Play multiple sports, but practice one sport.” As a young coach who always loved to debate with him, this comment stopped me in my tracks, but once I stopped and thought about it, it made so much sense. It was like a light that went off in my brain. If you are talented and gifted enough to play at the next level, you will develop playing multiple sports but your focus on training and refining your skills should be on the sport you have the highest goals in. If you as an athlete, can figure that out, that is simply the first step in the battle for your time.
The most important piece of advice I can give you is to make sure that your situation is relevant to the advice you are getting. I see many articles about how college football coaches want multi-sport athletes. Urban Meyer, the Ohio State University Head Football Coach, is always talking about how he wants to recruit multi-sport athletes. Well Urban, that’s great for football, but it is not relevant to many other sports that athletes can play. Football is a sport that is facing new challenges from the top down in terms of an athlete’s safety. Bottom line is, the football players CANNOT play football year round. They don’t even have that opportunity to do so. Many of those players are doing wrestling or basketball in the winter. Some of them are doing track in the spring. Football does not have a physical AAU season. Therefore, if you are taking the advice of Urban Meyer, stop! It is not relative to your daughter who is trying to play volleyball at the next level.
All that being said, I am a multi-sport fan and advocate. “Play multiple sports but practice one”. If you think I do not practice what I preach, my Club teams over the past 5 seasons, have consisted of over 35 Division I athletes, 4 Division II athletes, and 1 Division III athlete. Out of all of those athletes, only 4 of them did not play at least one other sport. I am a fan of playing other sports because of what it can teach an athlete.
I became a better coach because I was not a very good basketball player. I was one of those players that went in when we needed. Whether it was to rest some of our starters or playing in the final 3 minutes of a blowout win or loss, my playing role was limited. That time I spent on the bench, molded me to who I am today as a coach and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I believe that playing multiple sports can not only work on the physical aspect of the game like the balancing of muscles in the body, but I also think it helps balance and develop the mental aspects like dealing with pressure. Pressure is a privilege. Without pressure, you are just playing “rec ball”. Pressure also develops the level of play in the athletes. Multi-sport athletes will be given more opportunity to handle pressure and deal with adversity. They learn how to win, lose, and grow. Those are important life lessons.
As an athlete facing the pressures of people on the outside trying to help you determine your future, I have some advice for you. Know that regardless of your decision, some people will be disappointed and will not be able to understand why you decided on what you did. This is fine as long as you and your support system are happy with what you have decided.
1) This decision is about you and what you want! No one else. Keep the advice you receive about your decision to people you trust. Your inner circle and family are important in that.
2) Ask other athletes about what the organization or coach really believes and does when it comes down to having to make a choice. What is their philosophy on it? Do they say what they want you to hear at the time or do they genuinely understand you?
3) Be prepared to make some difficult decisions and let some people down. Communication is so key in this. Lay everything out there as early as possibly so there are no surprises.
In the end, whether it is playing 3 different sports, or focusing on just one, you need to have your academics in line and a priority. If you are not strong in your academics none of the above matters.