To play multiple sports or not to play multiple sports, that is the question. If Shakespeare were still alive, I’m fairly certain he would’ve said that. It is a conversation that bounces around sports environments constantly, no matter the sport. Should athletes give up all other sports in order to specialize in one, or should they try and master skills in multiple sports and potentially give up the opportunity to specialize in one?

I’ve always been a proponent of multiple sports, if only because I played multiple sports when I was growing up. Who didn’t? The answer today is, more and more, no one does. So what are the benefits of playing multiple sports?

  1. Injury prevention: When you play one sport, you put your body through the same motions over, and over, and over, and over…you get the idea. Over time, your body can begin to break down because of the specific motions that you’ve made time and again without training any other parts of your body. In volleyball players, this causes a lot of back, knee, and shoulder injuries.
  2. Reduce burnout: We’ve all felt it at some point, in sports or out of it. Once you have done something so much, you can start to feel burnt out. Doing the same thing, every day, every week, every year…can wear on an individual. It can really wear on a developing tennager, who is still trying to figure out where they want to go to college, what they want to be their career, where they want to live in the future, and more. Burnout is a very real problem, and playing multiple sports can solve that.
  3. Better overall health: Playing multiple sports now means you’ll have a passion for multiple sports later, potentially keeping you more active down the road. Plus, you use different muscle groups with multiple sports, multiple movements, etc…that can help boost every sport you play.
  4. College scholarships: We all know colleges have multiple sports, right? If you are an athlete who loves participating in multiple sports, some colleges will work with you to be able to participate is whatever you want! Track in the spring, volleyball in the fall, whatever your passion might be. It could lead to some fantastic opportunities.

However, there are a multitude of reasons that more and more athletes are choosing specialization over multiple sports, and frequently to their own detriment.

  1. College scholarships: Many players and parents feel that if they don’t play the same sport all year long, they will miss out on college opportunities. What if a college doesn’t think I’m committed to the sport? What if I miss a day at a tournament and they are there recruiting?
  2. Fewer multi-sport opportunities: Realistically, kids don’t really play outside much anymore. This is more of a societal issue, but it certainly seems like the days of pickup basketball in the driveway, stickball games in the local park, tossing the football, frisbee, softball, etc…are gone for a majority of athletes. Everything is organized by someone in some specific location.
  3. Drive to be the best: There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be the best at a sport, but sometimes it can be detrimental to development. If you don’t play a sport for 12 months in a row, you might fall behind. But why can’t you play multiple sports at the same time?

There are certainly other factors that can go into it, including the immense availability of more and more clubs in cities around the country. You could call it the “Wal-Mart” effect, where there’s an offering for everyone who is willing to pay to play. There are plenty of clubs who are more than willing to take the money.

It always strikes me to hear a parent (as recently as this last week) say “Well, club coaches say they want kids to play multiple sports, but they don’t mean it…” And why don’t they mean it? Selfish, personal benefit can frequently be the answer to that question. Monetary benefit could be another answer.

When you stop and think about it, read up on statistics, and understand more about what happens after high school, any parent can find the numbers on high school athletes playing in college. According to the NCAA for 2018, the estimated percentage of volleyball athletes that go on to play in the NCAA is 3.9%. According to scholarshipstats.com, 5.8% of high school volleyball players will play some form of college volleyball. That’s about 1 in 17 athletes.

So what’s the moral of the story? If you love playing multiple sports, play multiple sports. As a person, it can only have a positive effect. A good coach and a good club will work with you on your schedule to make sure you can satisfy all of your requirements. Keep playing sports, get outside, maybe start a pickup game in your neighborhood. It’s way more fun!