A few months ago, my wife convinced me to join a coed softball team with her. I’m not really a softball person, but she knew several members of a team and they needed a few players. I figured out that I could fit it into my work schedule so I agreed to play. I thought that it would be good since I haven’t played anything competitive in awhile. Little did I know how much softball would help me.
I can honestly say that I’ve had fun playing. I’ve also enjoyed the competition and the personal challenges. Being a little older I tended to get more bumps, bruises, and dings in my body than I seem to remember from my younger days. Some things haven’t changed much though: I still get frustrated when I make mistakes and excited to make good plays and win games. So what has all of this done for me? It’s made me really examine each bump and bruise, each mistake, every high and low. You know what? It helped remind me what it’s like for my athletes when the same things happen to them. It made me remember why athletes don’t want to “sit out” when something hurts. It reminded me of the emotions that play such a large role in sports. While I know that coed rec league softball isn’t exactly the Olympics, it still helped remind me what it’s like to have a little “inner fire” inside.
While I hadn’t really forgotten any of these things, it was still good to experience them again. When we deal with athletes we can’t afford to forget what it was like to be one. If we do forget, we won’t ever be able to truly connect with them and understand them.
I found this article about sports specialization for softball players. If you know me at all, you know that I’m not a fan of kids specializing in one sport. Two points from the article did encourage kids not to specialize:
College coaches want multi-sport athletes because they are more well rounded
“…multi-sport athletes do tend to be more well-rounded and often out-perform those who focus only on a single sport. Often the skills from one sport translate into an advantage in another, such as explosiveness in basketball or agility in soccer.”
These two statements probably don’t come as a surprise to most strength and conditioning professionals. Unfortunately there are numerous other things in the same article that try to discourage multi-sport athletes. I won’t get into all of the details, but I do have one question. If playing multiple sports helps a person to develop into a more complete athlete and makes them more desirable to college coaches, why are so many athletes still playing a single sport year-round??? To add to this, many of the athletes who specialize become physical trainwrecks before they ever make it to college. Lets also not forget to mention those that mentally burn out. So if it’s not benefitting the kids, who is this helping? There are only 3 parts to this equation – the athlete, the parent, and the coach. We’ve already decided that specialization isn’t helping the athlete. That only leaves the adults. When did sports stop being about the athletes themselves?
So, what’s the solution? It’s very simple. Stop trying to convince parents and kids that playing one sport year round is the only way to go. Not only is there another way, playing multiple sports is the best way to develop athletes. Maybe if athletes weren’t being “encouraged” (forced) to focus on one sport, it would solve a lot of issues.