A few years ago I began noticing a new type of youth sport athlete – the 2 sport, same season athlete. Rather than playing just one sport, these kids were committed to two sports at the same time. I found this interesting (not to mention exhausting), but it was somewhat of a rare sighting as most kids were still playing just one sport per season (the traditional way of playing sports). This week, however, while speaking to a group of high school team captains I became even more aware of how common it is becoming for young athletes to play multiple sports per season (I even met a girl this week playing three sports concurrently). Well over half of the group of kids I spoke to acknowledged that they are playing not one, but two sports simultaneously this summer.
Is this multiple sport, same season choice a good thing for kids? That question remains to be answered, but one thing is for sure – the idea of simply playing one sport at a time may be a dying concept in youth sports.
Kids who play multiple sports at the same time run a greater risk of physical injury and emotional burnout, and they also face major challenges when it comes to time management and being able to fully commit to each team. Sports parents invested in supporting their child playing multiple sports can certainly mitigate some of these issues, but even with the best efforts there are only so many hours in a day. Years ago when kids began to specialize in one sport and play that sport year-round, many people were concerned, yet that athlete prototype remains strong today with millions of kids becoming “sport specialists” every year. Will the multiple sport athlete become “normal” in the years ahead – similar to the sport specialist?
The biggest questions I have around the multiple sport, same season athlete include the following:
- Does the child fully understand all the commitments involved to both teams?
- Why is the child competing on multiple teams at the same time? Is he or she being pressured by coaches, teammates, or even parents?
- What other opportunities are being missed because of such a huge commitment to sports? Other clubs/activities? Volunteering and internships? Family vacations?
I sometimes worry that families make these kinds of decisions not because it is “right” for their child, but instead because they look around and see other families doing it, and therefore think they should, too. I witnessed a similar trend happen about ten years ago where the line in the sand between travel leagues and recreation leagues became quite blurred — travel leagues began to quickly expand, and not because the talent pool had grown, but instead due to the number of families who simply wanted to be a part of a travel league rather than a rec league.
Remember, just because everyone is doing something (or it seems like they are), doesn’t make it automatic that you should do the same. Signing your child up for multiple teams at the same time might seem like a great decision on the surface, but if it leads to increased injury risk, emotional burnout, and partial commitments to both teams then it might not be a wise choice. If, on the other hand, you have given great thought to this decision and fully accept the potential negative consequences mentioned here, then this might be a decision worth considering for your child.