Should Athletes Play Multiple Sports or Not?

Written by Devin Cruz, IL Boys Premiere Director

When it comes to athletics and the development of children and adolescents, there are 100 different ways to approach the idea of kids venturing into multiple sports. Some may advocate that too many sports can hinder a child’s ability to excel at the sport they perform best at or prefer. Others would contest that sticking to one sport could hinder further athletic development or may cause burnout in a player.

At True Lacrosse, most of our directors and coaches are former players. Some of us played multiple sports while others just the one. So, having been a former player and a coach, we want to briefly discuss both avenues and break down the pros and cons of whether or not to play multiple sports.

Why should athletes play multiple sports:

There are a few angles to look at when approaching the question of whether or not you or your child should play multiple sports. When I was younger, I knew lacrosse was a long term sport for me. But, before I found lacrosse, I had already been playing soccer for four years, hockey for two or three years, and I had just started to attempt playing baseball. By the time I had entered 8th grade, I was playing lacrosse, football, and soccer. By high school, I was down to just soccer and lacrosse.

There are a lot of benefits that come with multisport athletes, especially in the lacrosse world. Today, you see players excel on the field using their footwork and physicality from football, their endurance from soccer and track, and their stickwork or hand-eye coordination from hockey and baseball. The skills that are essential to one sport can directly relate to the skills needed for other sports.

Playing a variety of sports also prevents burnout. It is quite common to see kids who centralize in one sport begin to lose interest the more they play. Now, this is not the case for all players. But similar to all hobbies and activities, without some level of diversity in what you are doing, you may be less inclined to continue.

Why should athletes NOT play multiple sports: 

When we talk about the potential downsides of being a multisport athlete, the first thing that strikes me is INJURY PREVENTION. With contact sports, there is a possibility for an increase in concussions and torn ligaments. It is crucial to allow your athlete the proper rest time. Resting allows athletes to keep their bodies in the best shape and prevent long term injuries or stresses on the body. If a player is going from high impact sport to high impact sport, that is eventually going to take a toll on the body. For example, tendonitis is the overuse of a body part, particularly in sports. Depending on its severity, it can be a long recovery process. Having that downtime to let your body recover would be a key benefit of being a single sport athlete.

On the other side of the coin, having an athlete centralize in one sport immediately takes the opportunity away from them to see what else is out there. What other sports or opportunities they might also excel at in life. Now, of course, you could argue that the skills learned in basketball would eventually be learned in lacrosse (i.e. separation from a defender, off-ball movement, zone defense). But, when exposed to it in a non-lacrosse setting, the skills would become easily transferable when put in a lacrosse setting.

At the end of the day, you can look at both arguments and see the upside and the downside. As a coach, I personally lean towards trying to find the balance between playing multiple sports. However, it is important to understand that if you are playing four sports and you’re really good at two of them, in time, you should look to shift gears towards the sports you excel at most.