Sports Medicine

Is It Wise to Play Only One Sport?

By on 07/18/2018

There are many benefits to getting kids involved in organized sports when they’re young. Children participating in sports have opportunities to enhance self-esteem, improve self-discipline, socialize with peers and develop physical and mental skills. Being active from a young age helps kids stay healthy and sets the stage for them becoming active adults.

One issue with today’s young athletes, however, is the focus on specialization in a single sport. Often this happens from a very young age and may be spurred by parents’ competitiveness or belief that training intently for one sport will help their child “get ahead” or become an elite athlete. But specializing in a sport, especially from an early age, may do more harm than good.

Playing only one sport year-round may:

  • Increase the risk of overuse injuries
  • Decrease overall athletic development
  • Lead to social isolation
  • Cause burnout that results in the child giving up the sport

Participation in multiple sports can lead to better performance, according to research, and makes it more likely kids will become successful athletes in college and beyond. According to one study of NCAA Division I athletes, 88 percent participated in an average of two to three sports as children and 70 percent didn’t specialize in a single sport until after age 12. Approximately 70 percent of NFL players were multi-sport athletes as kids.

Some benefits of exposing kids to multiple sports are:

  • It gives kids a chance to discover what they like about different sports.
  • It lets kids enjoy playing for the sake of the game, rather than focusing only on winning.
  • It reduces the chance of injury resulting from overuse or overtraining.
  • It allows kids to develop skills that transfer from one sport to another.
  • It provides valuable learning opportunities as kids adapt to different coaches, training styles and teammates.

Encouraging kids to play multiple sports will help prepare kids for life, allow them to have more fun and can lead to the development of better overall athletes.

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Date Last Reviewed: May 16, 2018

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Andrew P. Overman, DPT, MS, COMT, CSCS

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