Multisport

Many athletic skills are transferable, which is why several experts suggest that early overall sport development (running, throwing and catching) makes for better athletes down the road [1]. As a result, children who sample multiple sports before age 12 possess a broad range of physical, personal, and mental skills that allow them to be successful when they do start specializing in a single sport during adolescence.

Research also shows that boys participating in more than one sport before age 12 are more physically fit and have better gross motor coordination than those who specialize early in a single sport [2] , as they have been exposed to a greater number of physical, cognitive, affective, and psycho-social environments than boys participating in a single sport. The exposure to different coaches with different philosophies, strategies, and personalities can provide important benefits for the development of a well-rounded athlete.

Other reasons for multiple sport participation include:

  1. Most College Athletes Come From a Multi-Sport Background: 88% of college athletes were found to have participated in two or three sports as a child, and 70% did not specialize until after age 12 [3].
  2. Free Play Equals More Play: Activities which are intrinsically motivating, maximize fun and provide enjoyment are incredibly important in increasing motor skills, emotional ability, and creativity. Children allowed deliberate play also tend to spend more time engaged in a sport than athletes in structured training with a coach.
  3. 10,000 Hours is not a Rule: A survey of the scientific literature found that most elite competitors require far less than 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to enhance performance. Specifically, basketball (4000) and field hockey (4000) all require significantly less [4].
  4. There are Many Paths to Mastery: A study found that while most professional ice hockey players had spent 10,000 hours or more involved in sports prior to age 20, only 3000 of those hours were involved in hockey specific deliberate practice (and only 450 of those hours were prior to age 12) [5].

In addition to the sporting benefits of participating in multiple sports, it was revealed 20 years ago that multi-sport athletes generally achieve better grades, and are often the most active and productive athletes in the school [6]. A more recent study has found academic achievement scores were positively related to fitness levels. Obese boys had lower scores for academic achievement than overweight or normal weight boys. Good cardio-respiratory and speed/agility levels were associated with high academic achievement [7].

The majority of studies suggest that early specialization can have significant negative consequences on the development of an athlete over time [8]. These include:

  1. interference with healthy child development [9],[10],[11],[12];
  2. psychological risk from stress associated with over-involvement and expectations of parents and significant others [13];
  3. no guarantee for future athletic success [14],[15],[16];
  4. hurts, rather than helps, skill development [17],[18],[19],[20];
  5. is elitist [21];
  6. leads to overuse injuries [22],[23],[24],[25];
  7. promotes adult values and interests, not those of children [26],[27];
  8. increases the chances that the child will suffer burnout and quit sports [28],[29],[30],[31]; and
  9. reduces the chance that children will stay active in sports as adults [32].

Colorado Ball Sports’ multisport participation:

  • builds a solid foundation for physical literacy,
  • develops a wide range of movement and sport skills,
  • improves overall physical conditioning,
  • helps to prevent overuse injuries,
  • develops a stable yet flexible core, and
  • enhances stamina, power, strength and speed.

The lessons learnt on the sports field translate as life skills too, such as independence, teamwork , communication, auditory and working memory skills and even problem solving. Colorado Ball Sports’ multisport programs promote creativity, a caring nature, a sense of self and connection to others for team players. It builds character, confidence and competence – minus the proven risks of single sport specialization.

It is for these reasons that Colorado Ball Sports incorporates a multisport approach to entrench a love of physical activity and sport from an early age. At every level, students and their parents will be encouraged to learn and participate, benefitting from a diversified approach to physical activity that also takes into account the child’s developmental stage.

For a great insight into the benefits of multisport, US Youth Soccer has written a fantastic article that is well worth a read.

Here’s another great one from High School Sports Stuff. The message is clear – multisport is the way to go!

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[1] Hill, G. M. (1987). A study of sport specialization in mid-west high schools and perceptions of coaches regarding the effects of specialization on high school athletes and athletic programs. (Doctoral Dissertation, University of Iowa, 1987). UMI Dissertation Services.

[2] Franzen J, et. al.  (2012). Differences in physical fitness and gross motor coordination in boys aged 6-12 years specializing in one versus sampling more than one sport.  Journal of Sports Sciences. DOI:10.1080/02640414.2011.642808 (available online ahead of print: 03 Jan 2012).

[3] American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (2013). “Effectiveness of early sport specialization limited in most sports, sport diversification may be better approach at young ages.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 April.

[4] Epstein D. (2014) The Sports Gene Penguin Group, New York.

[5] Cote J, Baker J, & Abernethy B. (2007) Practice and Play in the Development of Sports Expertise. In R Eklunc & G Tenenbaum (Eds) Handbook of Sport Psychology (pp 184-202; 3rd ed) Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

[6] Cardone, D. (1994). A.D. Roundtable: Has specialization in sport affected participation in interscholastic programs? Scholastic Coach and Athletic Director, 64 (5), 4

[7] Torrijos-Nino C et al. (2014) Physical Fitness, Obesity, and Academic Achievement in Schoolchildren J Peds 165(1):104-109

[8] Sagas M. (2013) What does the science say about athletic development in children. Research Brief, University of Florida Sport Policy & Research Collaborative for the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program’s Project Play. September 13 (accessed at http://www.aspeninstitute.org/sites/default/files/content/docs/events/At…).

[9] Hill.

[10] Sagas.

[11] Mostafavifar AM, Best TM, Myer GD. (2013). Early sport specialisation, does it lead to long term problems? Br J Sports Med. 47:1060-1061

[12] DiFiori JP et al. (2014) Overuse Injuries and Burnout in Youth Sports: A Position Statement from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. Clin J Sport Med; 24(1):3-20.

[13] Russell WD & Limie AN. (2013). The relationship between youth sport specialization and involvement in sport and physical activity in young adulthood. J Sport Behav. 36(1):82-88

[14] Sagas.

[15] Jayanthi N et al. (2012). Sports Specialization in Young Athletes: Evidence-Based Recommendations. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach. 20(10). DOI: 10.1177/1941738112464626 (published October 25, 2012 ahead of print).

[16] DiFiori et al (2014).

[17] Sagas.

[18] Jayanthi et al.

[19] Mostafavifar.

[20] DiFiori et al (2014).

[21] Sagas.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Jayanthi et al.

[24] Mostafavifar.

[25] DiFiori et al (2014).

[26] Sagas.

[27] Jayanthi et al.

[28] Sagas.

[29] Jayanthi et al.

[30] Mostafavifar.

[31] DiFiori et al (2014).

[32] Russell.