Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Youth Sports: Two Sport Athletes Overcommitted (Part 3)

Is it fair to commit to two different teams in the same season? Fair to the respective coaches, fair to both sets of teammates, fair to other parents who spend a lot of money to be on a team with high expectations?

In this series of posts, I am thinking out loud regarding the topic of specialization in one sport. I am trying to determine 1) if an youth athlete can do two sports and be respectful to coaches and teammates, 2) the best age to specialize and 3) the best way to manage a two sport schedule until the athlete reaches that recommended age for specialization.

In the previous post, the coach of my daughter's AAU team questioned our commitment to the team in a respectful email after we informed her that we would miss an out-of-town tournament next week to play soccer.

Here is my response to the coach.

Dear Coach, 
CC is overcommitted and I would like to apologize to you, the assistant coaches, the other players and their parents. We are truly sorry for the distraction this is causing

CC loves basketball - She is committed to getting better at basketball - believe me - she shoots for hours and hours in our backyard. She truly wants to be able to help the team with her outside shots. 

She also loves soccer. She plays on a top team in the highest select league. She is THE goalie for the team. In a surprising move before this season started, the soccer coach cut the other goalie for the team. He wanted to keep an extra forward. As a result, CC is vitally important to the success of her soccer team.

Last year with all the rain - most of the weekend soccer games were canceled and replayed during the week. As a result, we did not miss a single basketball game - all 49 or so games. We got lucky and a little over confident that we could really do it again. This year - no rain and lots of conflicts. And lots and lots of heartache for CC. If the soccer team had another goalie - she could balance her commitment more toward basketball - but she can't. 

My wife and I are conflicted - CC loves sports and wants to compete every day. We don't want her to specialize at this young age. CC does not want to specialize yet either, not until she knows how tall / big / fast she is going to be and what sport will provide the best opportunity for her to standout in high school and potentially college. We hate that a 11 year old girl
needs to make a decision like this - but she is going to have to make a decision soon - I guess she can only play one sport at a very high level. 

Soccer ends way before basketball - so she will be available and very focused on basketball before long. She will make every practice and game that she can.

We are very thankful for your time and effort - we truly and foolishly thought that we could make it work before we committed to both teams. Next year we will be more transparent so that you can make an informed decision about CC's roster spot.

Again - we are sorry.

Stats Dad
Here is the very thoughtful response from the coach. 

Hi Stats Dad,  
I hope you all know that CC is a true key to this team and her improvement is going through the roof. I not only love seeing her grow in her skills but also her basketball knowledge. 
I know you both are doing everything you can with CC to get her to basketball and soccer and everything.  I know your family is committed to this team. I know it is a hard thing when your daughter is talented in more than 1 sport as CC is. I understand about TN trip and we will all miss CC.   
Please know that I am not asking her to pick but will have to ask by next season what sport is going to go first. This is something I did not do a great job at this year. We have made it work last year and so far this year. It will all work out. 
CC is always at basketball when she doesn't have soccer I will never questions that. Please know that CC is a key to this team and I selfishly want her around, like all the girls do. I know that there are a couple more conflicts and then we are in the clear!!!  
Thank you for all you do for our team and CC.  
Thanks again  
The Main Point

We made a commitment to two teams this year. We can't meet the obligations of both commitments. The issue is magnified because 3 other basketball players are doing the same thing. Next year, we will have to me more transparent regarding our situation and let both coaches know what we are doing. And let them decide if he / she is willing to tolerate an 80% commitment level from a 12 year old girl as long as she gives 100% on the court or pitch when she is available. 

Finally, we are lucky to have a confidence building and empathetic basketball coach.


  1. Didn't Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson, and at one time, John Elway specialize in 2 different sports?

    I think what CC does is great. It's great she is involved in more than 1 sport. She now seems to be such a spectacular athlete, she and you seem to be getting pressure, such as to specialize in just one sport.

    I'm a fan of what CC does. Part of that reason is because there seems to be a lot of male chauvinism in sports these days, especially in basketball. Sometimes it is bad, sometimes it is worse, and sometimes it is downright disgusting.

    CC has heart, determination, the love of the game, and lots of talent. She and her enthusiasm for sports is setting a really good example to girl athletes. Other girls will be able to see from CC that they too can be great athletes in basketball and other sports.

    1. Are you saying that this would not be an issue if she were a guy? I am pretty sure that is not the issue = she has a female coach.

    2. Sorry about the confusion, and that it took long to response. I don't think gender here is the issue.
      From what I've read, your daughter seems to be extraordinary good at sports, and she is probably at that age to where coaches want 100% or close to it.
      I think you would know much more than me on this. I did play sports for a little while, but when I was your daughter's age, I did not perform even close to your daughter's skill level at soccer and basketball.
      What I meant by gender is in the future, there may be a good chance your daughter will play at a higher skill level than most of the boys. This is where male chauvinism can be an issue.

  2. This is a great and honest article. However, there is a reality to life, what is fair, right and appropriate. There seems to be a great deal of discussion about the needs of the individual athlete but not of the team. It is totally inappropriate to have a great player practice 80% of the time but play more than that on the team. Think of it this way. If you were a cheerleader and the same guy throws you in the air at games. Now he wants to show up only some of the time. It has an effect on the team, you and your ability to perform as a player. These negative impacts are greater than any one players ability, period.

    1. Thanks - I am trying to be honest. I agree the team is paramount and that is why we are so conflicted.

    2. Given this delema what is your opinion. Mine is that like all of life parents make choices for their children. It is best to commit to a sport and recognize as a result of the choice there are consequences. As a softball coach I would not select a 80 percent player because of the impact on the morale and lesson it teaches my players. My advice is play select ball in soccer and rec ball in softball,

    3. Why are you anonymous? Depends on the athlete. I'll take a great player who comes to practice at the youth level 80% of the time any day of the week, especially if I know they're getting sports training in other areas/sports. Believe at all levels in treating players fairly, but not the same. Each individual & situation is different. Flexibility in life is key.

  3. Thanks for adding to the conversation - I think that a coach needs to make a group of kids work as a team with great morale. If you have a great player with a great attitude who is hindering that goal - by causing resentment - then you need to make a decision for the team. Our coach is essentially doing that in a very thoughtful and measured way.

  4. This is a difficulty that so many kids face and it is driven, i believe by high school and college places. Kids want to play at the varsity level and many believe that they will get recruited to college. But what children cannot foresee is the risk of overuse injury from training so hard in the growing years and that very high levels of intensity at an early age can cause burn out and loss of interest later. My boys have been through all of this and a surprising number of kids played too hard and too much at the middle school level and were injured or burned out by 10th grade. It sounds like you are a very caring sensible dad, and parents have so much to consider when helping their kids make these decisions.

    1. I worry about overuse injury - but in all honesty I could not slow my kids down if I tried. My daughter will play a double header in basketball and when we get home she heads right for the side yard where we have a basketball hoop. She is non-stop 24/7.

      Also I have seen lots of kids get burned out physically and mentally before high school.

      Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  5. "I guess she can only play one sport at a very high level." Never write or think that again. It can be done. Bring her to my daughter's school & I guarantee that she will start on both teams in high school. You're training an athlete at this stage. Yes, she's gaining sports specific skills, but long term athletic development should be your mission. Things will work out when she gets older. Coaches at higher levels recognize a trained athlete. Athletes win out in most sports in the end.

    Skills can always be impacted, but athleticism can only be impacted by so much, especially in post-puberty years. Tell parents in track & field that I can help your kid get faster, but not fast.

    Nice letter by the coach in response to your letter. Don't blame her for writing her initial letter. I used to have to write similar letters in rec soccer about kids showing up for practice. Learned parents have their own agenda & they're going to do what they're going to do. Happens at the club level all the time. Was surprised how many practices were missed by kids on my son's club soccer team last year. Parents want their kids to be top shelf in sports, but many don't understand the work that goes into being an elite athlete.

    1. Readers great wisdom from a very credible source. Thanks Clarence.




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