3 Important Tips for Today’s Multi-Sport, Youth Sport Athlete
For about the last 10+ years there has been a growing trend in youth sports where more kids are competing in two, and sometimes three sports during the same season. I have written about this trend and the sport psychology challenges that come along with playing multiple sports concurrently, including greater chance for sport burnout and injury, but even with these risks the idea of playing multiple sports at the same time has only increased. Juggling schedules is tough enough for adults, but for kids it can be even more difficult as they work to develop communication and time management skills. The multi-sport athlete appears to be here to stay, as not only are more kids choosing to experience sports in this manner, but more parents and coaches are encouraging it as well. Because of this paradigm shift it is important to help kids successfully navigate how they can commit to multiple teams while also finding time for school, friends, and important downtime.
Tips to help
As kids continue to play multiple sports at the same time, new issues and mental toughness challenges emerge relating to commitment, responsibilities, and scheduling. Arguably the biggest challenge aside from increased risk of burnout and injury has to do with scheduling, especially when team practices and games conflict with one another and leave kids stressed over how to handle the situation. Should kids prioritize one team’s game over another team’s practice? If practices and games conflict, what sport takes precedent? And how fair is it for a kid who splits time between 2 or 3 teams for that kid to get equal, or even more, playing time than others on the team? There are no perfect answers to these questions, but there are things kids can do to minimize confusion and make the best of a challenging situation:
- Communicate with coaches regularly. When playing 2 or more sports at the same time it is very important to communicate with coaches about potential time conflicts so that he coach can responsibly coach his or her team. Additionally, kids who compete on multiple teams need to be aware and respect the fact that coaches may give other kids who have exclusively committed to the team more playing time and/or other advantages.
- Develop time management skills. Juggling multiple team schedules is no easy task, making time management an important life skill for young athletes to learn. Kids need to learn how to factor in getting prepared for practices and games, arranging rides and calculating drive time, and making sure to budget time to successfully complete other life tasks.
- Prioritize school and rest. Kids who play multiple sports are often pressed for time, but school will always need to take top priority (if for no other reason to remain eligible to compete). Kids also need to learn the importance of rest, and make sure to prioritize time in their schedule where they can unwind and give their minds and bodies a break.
Playing multiple sports at the same time is no easy task and includes many challenges to overcome, including commitments to each team, time management, and increased risk for injury and sport burnout. Kids who are interested in playing multiple sports also need to learn how to prioritize school, as well as find time to simply relax. Playing multiple sports concurrently is not for every kid, and for those who choose this route it is important to understand all the related complexities to ensure a safe, fun, and meaningful sport experience.