Who’s to Blame for the Decline in Multi-Sport Athletes in Youth Sports?
(By Guest Contributor: Amy Carney)
“I want the multi-sport guy,” Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney recently told the New York Times about the kind of kid he likes to recruit. “I just love that,” said Swinney to writer Karen Crause. Afterall he was himself a three-sport athlete at Pelham High in Alabama and his Clemson roster is filled with multi-sport athletes.
I know my kids are supposed to play more than one sport. But would Dabo Swinney or anyone else mind telling me how?
There’s nothing my husband, who played 18 years in the NHL, and I would love more than to see our children letter in three different high school sports that they love playing. Just like athletes used to be able to do back in our day. The problem is, in today’s youth sports culture that reality doesn’t exist anymore and we shouldn’t blame the parents. Or all of us, anyway.
The problem is youth club coaches and high school coaches don’t support multi-sport athletes. And the parents get stuck in the middle drinking their Kool-Aid. Doctors are against specializing in one sport, professional athletes advise against it and college coaches say they want to recruit multi-sport athletes, but if our child isn’t allowed that opportunity, then what are we to do?
Our daughter has played club soccer since the league was open to her at 6 years old. This year she got moved down because “she does other things,” an exact quote from her club team coach. AKA she plays 8 weeks of middle school basketball while on a club soccer team.
And the year before that she tried a season of lacrosse in conjunction with her soccer for a short time. Her coach at that time told us that she was going to need to be “more committed” if she was going to be a soccer player. The amazing thing is our 12-year-old maybe missed an hour or two of soccer practice a week to do these other sports. Just the fact that they viewed her as uncommitted because she wasn’t solely playing soccer for 8 months straight is outrageous.
The family willing to juggle multi-sports for their child is actually more committed than the one sticking themselves and their child on the same field, with the same team all year round.
What happened to youth coaches supporting their players’ athleticism?
We’ve juggled hockey, baseball and basketball teams for two of our sons every year. Our sons wouldn’t have been able to do this without the right coaches. Our freshmen sons have now had to make a choice in their athletics. The high school baseball coach told me at freshman orientation that he doesn’t like his guys playing basketball. His reasoning is that the seasons collide a bit and he doesn’t like what basketball does to their arm.
This is what our high school athletes are up against. Club organizations that don’t allow their players to play on their high school sports teams. High school coaches who deter kids from playing another sport besides their own.
We encouraged our son to still try out for basketball if he really wanted to play. He’s in the middle of that season now. My husband believes that a coach will take the best athletes for his team, end of story. We’ll see. Other parents decided to heed the baseball coaches’ advice and quit basketball altogether, even though their sons love playing both.
A high school coach should encourage and support each student athlete to be their best in whatever they choose to do. If they have a player who is capable of making two or three different school sports teams, why would they ever discourage that?
Please stop blaming the parents for this specialized sports craze and perhaps turn the conversation toward these coaches, teams and organizations that are hindering our children by not allowing them to be these multi-sport athletes everyone keeps telling us they should be.
Amy Carney is a former sports journalist and editor. She writes on her blog www.amycarney.com as well as for various online and print outlets about intentional parenting and family travel. Amy and her veteran NHL husband, Keith Carney, are raising their teenage triplets sons and a tween daughter to be multi-sport athletes in today’s specialized world of youth sports.