Even before the current pandemic, the trend for student athletes to play 2 (or more) sports during the same season was already in full swing. Now, as we attempt to get back to some sense of normalcy, many sport leagues are overlapping in order to make up for lost seasons, consequently putting many kids in the position of juggling multiple sports at the same time. Nationwide, some sports are being postponed until later in the school year, creating difficult choices for kids: Choose one sport, or take on the challenge of trying to play two at the same time. While it is nice to see sport opportunities again, it is also important to steer clear of over-extending physically and experiencing the mental exhaustion from sports burnout and over training.
The origins of multiple sports, same season
Years ago student athletes followed a traditional sports calendar that offered new sports with each new season, rarely with much (if any) overlap. As times changed and more sport opportunities became available, increasingly more kids attempted to extend sport seasons, and some played two or more sports full-time concurrently. During summer, for example, it is not uncommon today to see kids playing baseball, softball, soccer, golf, volleyball, basketball, and a host of other sports — often at the same time. With an abundance of new sport opportunities, many families have excitedly taken advantage by keeping their kids active and involved in exchange for what would be periods of time where kids might be tethered to video games or other non-active endeavors.
Concerns relating to multiple sports, same season
Like most things in life, there are both advantages and disadvantages to a busy sport schedule. Multiple opportunities certainly provides for additional physical fitness, more kids to meet and befriend, and the potential for serendipitous discoveries of new sports that might not have been known just a few years ago. Conversely, there are also potential dangers to avoid, including the following:
- More risk for injury. As you might imagine, the more physical contact kids experience, the risk for injury increases as well. Kids physically grow and develop by pushing their bodies, but they also need down-time for muscle recovery.
- Sports burnout. Another big issue today for kids is dealing with sports burnout, a condition that occurs when kids feel that sports more resemble a job than they do a fun kid experience. While it is not a certainty that kids who play multiple sports at the same time will experience sports burnout, the risks do increase — especially if there are few (or no) breaks during the calendar year.
- Scheduling problems. When kids participate in multiple sports simultaneously, they are still expected to fully participate with each team. The problem, however, is when schedules conflict with one another and tough decisions need to be made. What practice/game will I go to tonight? What will happen with the team I do not play with while playing for the other? How will my teammates be impacted? These are just a few of the very real questions kids experience while trying to balance their responsibilities to each team.
- Other missed opportunities. The more sports your child plays at the same time, the less time he/she will have for other life opportunities, including academic and social experiences. Remember, there are only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week — an increase in sports usually requires a decrease in something else.
It is really tough for all of us right now to watch our kids miss traditional life experiences and opportunities — including sports. Schools and youth sport leagues are doing all that they can to help return us back to normal, including offering sports at atypical times of the year that may conflict with other sports. It is important to weight sport opportunities with risks for over training and sports burnout so that your child can maximize the sport experience. Do your homework, talk to coaches, and spend time working as a family to decide what makes the most sense for your unique situation and circumstance.