5 reasons you want your kid to be a multi-sport athlete

As a multi-sport coach and parent of four children who play on over 15 different teams in a year, I have the multi-sport conversation with fellow parents and athletes often. Unlike 30 years ago, playing multiple sports is not easy. For kids to keep pace, they are expected to play club and select and train in the off-season for every sport. That becomes impossible for parents to manage and kids to stay excited about when you add in work, school, other commitments, and, oh, a little fun or vacation in the mix.

So what's the right approach? Do you start pulling your kid out of multiple sports early and honing in on just one or two? My answer is no. Keep your kids playing multiple sports for as long as they can. If we go back to why our kids play sports in the first place, we will remind ourselves that it's not about playing college ball and making the top teams. While we all welcome that, it's not why they play. We got our kids involved in sports because they enjoy it. Sports build character, cooperation, and leadership skills and allow kids to learn from others, make new friends, harness their work ethic, and gracefully handle wins and losses. Sports promote fitness and movement and teach kids how to build mental and physical strength. Sports have the power to change a kid's life.

Here are my top five reasons why you want your kid to be a multi-sport athlete. I hope these reasons help you consider keeping your kids playing on multiple teams even at the expense of your weekend relay race to and from practice and games. It's well worth the effort. Because like every parent tells us that's been through it, these days will fly by, and we will miss the carpooling, the game-watching, the friends we get to make because of our kid's sports, and the moments of pride at all levels that sports give us.

Fewer overuse injuries

Our kids growing bodies can become stressed by repetition, which can lead to injury. A lack of rest of particular muscles and not building on all parts of the muscle system exacerbates the problem. From the increase of ACL injuries happening at younger ages, studies show that playing multiple sports leads to better muscle, motor, and skill development. It promotes general athleticism, balance, speed, and agility. What you learn on the basketball court 100% translates to your volleyball or football game.

Less opportunity for emotional burnout

My husband is a prime example of this. He grew up playing football under his father, a University of Tennessee football player who put a lot of stock in that particular sport. Football was everything, and they worked, played, and talked about it to the point that he got burnt out. Kids who spend so much time focusing on one spot - and whose families are similarly solely focused - risk tiring of the sport altogether. The pressure of playing or focusing on just one sport increases pressure and expectations. Playing multiple sports keeps things interesting, more balanced, and fun. Nothing is more exciting than a new sporting season. It's the reason sports are seasonal in nature.

Exposure to different teammates and coaches

Your volleyball friends will be different than your softball friends, who will be different from the kids in your drama club or your school class. Exposing kids to different sports allows them to share teammate experiences and make memories with a diverse group of peers. My kids often ask me how I know so many people throughout Cincinnati. It typically comes back to sports. Sports can significantly widen your circle and create connections far beyond your classmates. Playing multiple sports also provides an opportunity to learn from different coaches. While coaches are teaching sports skills, I've found the most impact comes from teaching values and attitude development. Picking up these lessons can and should come from different mentors.

Not putting all your eggs in one basket

We know how competitive high school sports can be - especially in Cincinnati. I tell my kids often to keep their options open when it comes to playing sports. We can't predict the future for any kid. They will grow, develop and change at different times and levels. This could open or close doors for different types of sports. Playing only one sport limits your options. An injury, a bad experience, or a reduced role could bring an abrupt end to an athletic career. If the goal is to play sports as long as possible, perhaps it makes the most sense to play as many sports as possible. Just ask just about any successful professional athlete. The vast majority played multiple sports and found that they started excelling in different ones at different times. Definitely the case for Michael Jordan.

Exposure to different roles

Being a bench player on the basketball team is a different experience than being a starting pitcher on the baseball team. Playing multiple sports is an opportunity to broaden kids' experiences, socially and developmentally. It's an opportunity to become a better competitor and all-around athlete.

While it's not making my top five, my bonus benefit would be learning various sports to enhance your life experiences down the road. Because of my experiences playing so many different sports growing up, I cannot jump into any pickup game across the board. Not to mention coach and teach my kids how to play. I sure would hate trying to teach my kids how to shoot a free throw, not having any experience doing this myself. Hey, it's not a reason to go sign up for everything, but certainly another benefit to playing multiple sports.

I find myself putting more stock in sports than ever before. With technology, social media, reduced face time, and increased health concerns, kids need sports more than ever. NEED is the keyword. Don't forget the power of emotional and physical fitness and just how important daily movement and activity are to our health. Now take a deep breath, know that this busy time in your life is temporary, and go sign your kid up for another team.

Ellie Brands is a branding and web design agency in Cincinnati that works with leaders to scale their brands and inspire demand. 

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