Roughly every 10 years or so we seem to witness a significant paradigm shift in youth sports, with the latest one being the student athlete who competes in 2 sports during the same season. Unlike student athletes from the old days who competed in a new sport each season (the “3-sport letter-winner”), or even the more modern “sport specialist” who competes in only one sport (usually year-round), today’s new youth athlete prototype is more regularly becoming the 2 sport, same season student athlete. (You can watch a recent NBC story we did on this topic here)
How are kids doing this you might be asking? Interestingly, most student athletes playing 2 sports in the same season first commit to playing a school sport — then add on a second club or travel sport. For example, the athlete might choose to play football during the fall as his primary sport, and compete in weekend baseball tournaments for his second sport.
The opportunities for kids to play multiple sports in the same season has really grown in recent years, as there are countless ways to play a second sport through various clubs, showcases, and elite-level leagues. Many parents wonder if this is a good or bad thing, but like most things in life it is usually what you make of it:
Pros of playing 2 sports in the same season
Kids who choose to play 2 sports during the same season can learn countless life skills, including time management, multi-tasking, and managing stress. Of course, most kids don’t usually master these skills on their own so it is imperative that parents help their kids learn and master the skills needed to successfully play 2 sports.
Cons of playing 2 sports in the same season
The biggest risks are usually greater chance for physical injury and higher risk of youth sports burnout. While it is true that there is little that can be done to reduce the risk of injury (especially if one of the sports is a contact sport), sports burnout can be minimized by watching for specific signs, including disinterest in competing or reduced pride in personal and team accomplishments.
I feel fairly confident that we will only see more 2 sport, same season athletes in the future as increasingly more opportunities arise for kids to play multiple sports. This is not a good or bad, right or wrong issue by any means, but instead a decision unique to each family. With strong family support and oversight, student athletes can successfully play (and even excel) in 2 sports during the same season, but there are always the risks of injuries and burnout when proper oversight is missing.
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