multi-sport athlete

the multi-sport athlete

 4 Reasons to Save The Endangered Multi-Sport Athlete

The Bison once roamed North America and met the needs of an entire population of indigenous people. However, The bison merely became a creature for it’s hide and almost became extinct.

Once as many as 60 million bison roamed and was limited down to only 300 total in 1900. Thankfully, the numbers have returned to over 400,000.

The multi-sport athlete is becoming extinct. We need to save the endangered athlete.

It was once revered for the many benefits multiple sports provided; fun, teamwork, creativity, self-governing, motivation, fitness, and confidence. However, lost somewhere between adolescence and puberty is the specialist, an athlete whose sole purpose is to try and excel at one sport.


Seek, Kill, & Destroy.

The difference however between the bison and the multiple-sport athlete is that humans could never domesticate the American Buffalo. It was just too powerful.

However, we have been able to contain the multi-sport athlete. The specialist and his or parents live under the guise that if you play different sports; then “you’ll fall behind” or “you’ll get hurt.”  Hence, youth sport now littered with young kids only playing one sports year round.

That is why we need to save the endangered athlete.

The latter “you’ll get hurt” is a major misnomer that has been shown to have the opposite effect. Athletes that specialize have a greater rate of injury compared to non-specialized athletes.

“You’ll get left out” is the true bison in the room.

Here are 4 reasons to have a multi-sport athlete…

1) The sports skills transfer!

87% of the draft picks in the 2015 NFL draft were multi-sport athletes. This isn’t a one-year anomaly either. The average hovers around 70%.

All athletic movements transfer! Quickness, running, jumping, agility, throwing, etc. all transfer. For instance, jumping for a basketball is similar and builds the same muscles need to push off the blocks in swimming and have a good kick.

2) The athlete that plays different sports have a higher sports I.Q.

They develop a feel for any game that they are playing. They are more creative and less mechanical in their approach.

For instance, there are 10-year olds who look like demi-gods in the batting cage but have no idea how to run the bases. A recent phenomenon in volleyball has occurred in which some players in college have never served a ball in competition, ever.

3) Burnout becomes less frequent in multi-sport athletes.

How long do you think going to 6 showcase events and traveling each weekend in the summer to compete remains fun? We would NEVER ask professional athletes to do what U-10 athletes do (i.e., play 3 doubleheaders in a weekend). 

Trust the process, once every single tournament becomes a must do, the fewer tournaments actually are. Maintain the passion and fun by allowing breaks and time-off.

4) Multi-sport athletes learn to compete.

Each sport is different and requires different levels of focus and resiliency.

So, in order to become mentally tough, they need to be in different sports situations that test their resilience and ability to come back. If they learn to compete early on, that skill will transfer into other areas as well. We can compete in anything…

  • Marcelo Chierighini was SEC swimmer of the year at Auburn, a national champion and Olympian; he didn’t start swimming until age 16.
  • Maverik McNealy, a golfer at Stanford University, was the top-ranked amateur golfer in the United States, played hockey and soccer as well as golf into his senior year at high-school. The balance, stability, and core strength required in hockey transferred to golf.
  • Future Hall of Famer, Steve Nash, played soccer, rugby, and basketball in high school.

Lastly, a single sports specialist isn’t the worst culprit.

It’s a multi-single sports specialist! The new wave of overlapping specialized sports, where one sport, one team, and leagues overlap one another. Where is the time to play unorganized games? If we can follow these four strategies, then we can save the endangered athlete.

Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent books on Mental Toughness- Don’t Should on Your Kid: Build Their Mental Toughness   

With 2 little one’s, there is a major replay button on the movies in que, thus for will be parents, prepare to watch Shrek, Madagascar, and Monsters Inc., over 1000 times each…

Mistake #1-Trying to stop doing something…

One movie in the rotation is The Bee Movie. A funny scene is when “Barry” keeps flying into the window, and he keeps saying “this time, this time, this time, this time, this time.” These mistakes are common and are called the insane mistakes: “thinking what we are doing will produce different results.” 

First, we make this type of mistake because change is tough! We have also had some success and because we’ve had some success, it helps justify why we aren’t willing to or need to change. We don’t recognize that our successes are in spite of not because of our behaviors.

When it comes to these types of mistakes, we must become “sick and tired of being sick and tired” before we are willing to make any change. If we are still having limited success, we won’t make any adjustments to our behavior.

Mistake #2- Trying to do something…

Three frogs are on a lily pad, and two decide to jump to shore, how many are left? Three— merely deciding to do something doesn’t make it happen, it takes action along with commitment.

These types of mistakes are often why New Years Resolutions and typical goal setting fail. These are the getting ready to get ready mistakes, we have good intentions, but our hesitation and fear make it difficult to move forward.

In the book, Good to Great, the researchers found something called the flywheel effect. Great companies understood that big claims did not need to made at the onset of change, they just changed, spun the flywheel, and after momentum was built up, they’d look up and say “hey, if we just keep pushing on this thing, there’s no reason, we can’t accomplish X.” p. 177.

Whether we are trying to do something or stop doing something, they solution begins the same: do something…anything, and keep at it….

Author: Dr. Rob Bell