Sunday, May 6, 2012

Youth Sports: Two Sport Athlete Overcommitted (Part 4)

In the previous three posts, I have questioned whether it is fair for a young athlete to commit to two different teams in the same season? Is it fair to the respective coaches, fair to both sets of teammates, fair to all of the parents who spend a lot of money to put their kid on a top team with high expectations?

I talked to two people who have experienced the two sport situation. After my conversations, I started asking a new question.

Is it fair that a talented young athlete has to commit to one sport over another before he / she knows his / her full potential / passion in any given sport?

The other day, I was at an orthopedic doctor getting a mysterious bump on my shin looked at. (It turned out to be nothing.) Prior to seeing the doctor, a young assistant came into the room to take down some information. While she was asking me questions like when the lump appeared and what medications do I take and am I allergic to anything etc. She also asked me if I had kids, which led to a conversation about youth sports. She was dressed in sweats and looked very athletic, so I asked her if she was an athlete. She said that she had played basketball for a small division 3 college in Ohio. I asked her if she played any other sports growing up. She mentioned that she played club soccer and AAU basketball. Wow, just like my daughter, CC.

So I asked her the burning question - how did you play both? She said,
"You daughter is going to get lots of pressure to specialize from coaches, single sport teammates and parents of teammates. My advice is don't do specialize for as long as you can. My soccer training helped me become a better basketball player and my basketball training helped me become a better soccer player. And, I did not know which sport that I wanted to pursue in college until 9th grade. Play both as long as you can."
I also called a friend of mine to dig a bit deeper into the subject. My friend has two very athletic daughters. The oldest is playing volleyball in college. The youngest just signed a letter of intent to play soccer in college. Both played high level club basketball and volleyball through 8th grade.

Here is what he said after I told him about the pressure we were getting lately:
Wow this sounds so familiar as we had to do this for both of our girls.    

Kate and Shea played both club volleyball and club soccer up to 8th grade (soccer and Volleyball are the same season in High school and club).  Both also played CYO volleyball and basketball.

My recommendation is to keep CC into as many sports as she want to be in and as you can manage.  I think this gives them a feel for what they want to do and they do not get burned out to early on one sport.   As they get closer to high school, girls start to level out
quicker than boys and they will get a better feel for what they want to concentrate on in High School and club.  

Kate's decision was tough for her,  but she tried out for a volley ball club team and made the top team her 8th grade year and that was when she decided to give up soccer.  Shea did the same but always loved soccer more than volleyball, so was easy for her.

One mistake we made with Shea was not getting her in a soccer club that got her exposed to the big tournaments and had a well respective program outside of Cincinnati early enough. We finally did, but it was not until U16 which is the start of college recruiting (BTW - very little college recruiting is done at high schools most is through club for both volleyball and soccer).
The Main Point 

OK - after three posts with some great dialog, here is what I have concluded for my daughter.

We are going to resist the pressure to specialize until 8th grade, CC is in 5th. We are going to be transparent with the coaches so they know what level of commitment my daughter will be giving. We are going to let "enjoyment" be our guide. My daughter will play as many sports as she wants to play - basketball, volleyball, soccer and who knows maybe softball again or golf - as long as she is having fun.

There was some feedback from coaches during this series of posts who struggle with having a player that is only 80% committed to the program, even though they are 100% committed on the field when they are there.

My feedback to them would be; "You need to coach and make decisions that are right for the team. I need to parent and make right decisions for my daughter." There will be plenty of coaches who will understand and support our decision.

I know that I am going to hear that I am not teaching my daughter commitment. When this happens, I will asked them if all of the kids on the team practice as hard as my daughter does between team practices. I will also remind them that this is youth sports, not pro or college.

When someone tells me that my daughter will have a better chance to get a college scholarship if she specializes, I'll ask them to show me the evidence. Kids leaving a sport due to overuse injuries or burnout from specialization is rampant and just as many experts claim that sampling, cross training in more than one sport, is actually beneficial.


  1. You went from being torn in post 1 to a steely resolve in post 4. LOL! - Good luck & remember they're more than one ways to skin a cat.

    1. I could have saved a lot of time if I just asked you. :) Thanks

  2. Kid girl excels in 2 sports, and they complain about it? I say do BOTH sports anyway. No problem in being good at more than 1 thing.

    1. We will - just need to find coaches who understand that playing more than one sport is actually a benefit.

  3. "Thank you for posting your thoughts and process on this four-part series on the two-sport athlete. I found it so insightful! I also really enjoyed the letters to and from the coach that you shared.

    1. Thanks Denise - I'm trying to keep it open and honest so others can benefit - while also being respectful.

  4. Great series of articles! You inspired me to write about this too, although I have a different point of view. Thanks for sharing your daughter's experiences.

  5. Any parent that has their kids playing youth sports especially those that believe specializing is beneficial in hopes of landing a scholarship for their kids is misguided and in my point of view attempting to relive their childhood through their kids.

    Let your kids be kids. Youth athletics should not be a job for your kid but an opportunity for them to gain skills and learn the how to interact with teammates and opponents.

    1. 1) I agree with your first point wholeheartedly.
      2) I always hear the reliving comment - we are just helping our kids do what they love to do.
      3) Regarding letting kids be kids - some kids love to play sports non-stop. Some kids don't. As long as kids are not forced to play and they actually love it - then those kids are being kids.
      4) Regarding athletics should not be a job - I agree completely. My son played football in 3rd and 4th. He helped lead his team to two city championships. The 4th grade city championship game ended when my son sacked the quarterback and forced a fumble. On the way home from the game he said that that was his last game. We were shocked. He said, "Dad it is not fun anymore." My wife and I were fine with that. He never played another game.

      Thanks for adding to the conversation.

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