Can College Recruits Really Play Multiple Sports?
I am sick of reading the headlines, “Multisport Athletes Are Desirable to College Coaches” and “Why College Coaches Love Recruiting Kids Who Played Multiple Sports.”
In my experience, it is just not realistic, at least in the world of youth soccer. I am sure college soccer coaches would be fine with their recruits playing other sports, as long as they still play for their elite club team. Teams that play 10 months out of the year and have 5-6 games or practices a week. There is no time to play another sport. There is no “off season.” I know this is not true of all sports. According to the NCAA, 71% of Division 1 football players were multisport athletes and 83% of Division 1 women’s lacrosse players also played multiple sports in high school. In contrast to 62% Division 1 women’s soccer players who were one-sport soccer athletes by age 12. Did my daughters fall in love with the wrong sport?
It is a catch 22 for many athletes. They can choose not to play a club sport and instead play multiple sports in high school. But the competition to make a high school team can be tough – especially if they’re not playing a club sport, huh? When I look at my daughter’s high school soccer team the majority of the players on the field play club soccer. My oldest daughter was determined to play lacrosse her senior year of high school. She had already committed to a college for soccer and her college coach didn’t have a problem with her doing so, as long as she would still play for her club soccer team. She would run from school lacrosse to club soccer, changing in the car and hiding her lacrosse stick hoping no one noticed she was late to warmups. There were conflicts and she often felt like she was disappointing one of her coaches. Both coaches allowed her to play the other sport as long as their team was the priority. She had to make choices, should she miss a high school lacrosse game for a club soccer practice?
I do not disagree that playing multiple sports is ideal. I am just frustrated with a system that has made it near impossible for many athletes. I loved when my kids were in middle school and were able to “try” a different sport each season. They were on softball teams, swim teams, lacrosse teams and basketball teams in addition to their soccer teams. But as high school approached there was pressure to focus on one sport. The sport that they would most likely excel in. Parents got caught up in the fear that if their child did not specialize in a sport, they would fall behind and never be able to play in college. Looking back, I was one of those parents, assuming that my goal for them to play college soccer was their goal as well.
When my daughter tore her ACL her sophomore year of high school she was devastated. I couldn’t help thinking, would this have happened if she was playing multiple sports instead of year-round soccer? Did repeatedly using the same muscles make her more prone to injury? Year-round training can be excessive. It not only puts a player at risk for injury, but an athlete can become burnt out and lose their passion for the sport. Others may become resentful, missing social events because of weekend tournaments and not being able to play other sports for their high school. At the end of the day, if playing for a club team requires a year-long commitment, it is a choice. It is not for everyone. Playing in college is also a choice that sometimes means making sacrifices. It’s unfortunate that kids have to make this choice so early in their athletic career.
I understand why many college coaches encourage their recruits to play multiple sports in high school. I see the benefits. I just wonder how these same coaches would feel about their athletes playing multiple sports in college.
Kim O’Rourke is a soccer mom to three daughters who play on college and high school teams. She estimates that she has been to over 4,000 soccer games in the last 15 years. She tries to find humor in the crazy world of youth sports. She shares her stories about parenthood, health and relationships on her blog www.madcrazylife.com, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mymadcrazylife/Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mymadcrazylife/