At one time student athletes used to play one sport per season – one for fall, winter, and spring/summer. People over the age of 35 are very familiar with the “3 sport letter winner” that used to be a common sighting across high schools in America, but then somewhere in the late 1990’s a new student athlete began to emerge — the “sport specialist.” Rather than play a new sport every season, the sport specialist played one sport year-round. Today, we still see some 3 sport letter winners, as well as increasing numbers of sport specialists, but we are also seeing an entirely new student athlete prototype today — the student athlete who plays two sports in the same season.
A growing number of the athletes I see at my practice these days compete in two different sports during the same season. In these cases the athlete typically plays one sport as his primary sport, and the other as his secondary sport. For example, this fall many kids are playing football as their #1 sport, with other sports like baseball or basketball played on the weekends.
Throw into the mix academics, school/community activities, and friends and social endeavors and you can quickly see how challenging it is for kids who choose to play two sports at the same time. It’s an incredible time commitment to do this, not to mention a decision that requires superior time management, mental toughness, and multi-tasking skills.
In the 1980’s/90’s Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders both played multiple professional sports, but not at the same time. Jackson and Sanders played baseball till the end of the season, then quickly transitioned over to football. As amazing as these two athletes were (no athletes since them have played both pro football and baseball), neither played both sports at the same time.
As with any decision, there are pros and cons to examine with the two-sport, same season student athlete model:
- Provides structure and keeps kids from using their free time in unhealthy or inappropriate ways
- Pushes kids to maximize their fitness level
- Allows for new friendships with kids on different teams
- Leads to new life experiences, both on and off the field
- Can be very taxing on the body, and may leave kids more susceptible to injury
- Can lead to increased stress and pressure to keep up with both sports, school, and other activities and responsibilities
- Can leave a kid more at-risk for sport burnout
- Can be expensive (equipment, travel, etc)
The trend to play two sports at the same time is in full motion, and it’s unlikely this momentum will slow any time soon. With most sports having year-round opportunities through off-season leagues, camps, clinics, and showcases, you can be sure there will be plenty of chances for kids in the future to continue playing two, and maybe even three sports at the same time.