Specializing Sports

Specializing in Sports

College is the first time in my life that I have only played one sport. It feels foreign. I grew up going from one practice to the next, and now I only have one practice to worry about. I miss participating in other sports.

Today, many young children are told that they must play and specialize in one sport and only one sport.

The thought process is “why be average at three sports when you could be great at one?” Some parents want their children to focus on one specific sport so that they can excel and compete at the most elite level. The fact of the matter is that most athletes do not make it to that level. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), only one percent of high school athletes go on to play at the Division I level, and an even smaller percentage go on to play professionally. 

Additionally, many elite, professional, and Olympic athletes grew up playing multiple sports and did not specify and focus on one until high school or even college.

An ESPNW article listed “Five reasons why you want your kid to be a multi-sport athlete;” fewer overuse injuries, less opportunities for emotional burnout, exposure to different kids, exposure to different roles, and not putting all of your eggs in one basket.

One drawback to specialize in a single sport at a young age is the potential for burnout. Training day in and day out, traveling on weekends, and spending summers away from friends can get tiring.

After many athletes complete their high school athletic careers, they just stop playing. They are tired of the constant grind and often throw all that they have worked for away. All they did was eat, sleep, and play.

Specializing in one sport at a young age can also be detrimental to the athlete’s body. Because the athletes are not cross training and using different muscle groups in different sports, they may become prone to more injuries. Adolescent girls are especially prone to knee injuries, such as ACL tears. Growing up, I luckily never had a sports related injury. Teammates of mine that only played basketball, or only played soccer, got injured often.

My tennis coach at Monmouth, Patrice Murray, was a standout athlete when she attended Monmouth and graduated in ‘82. She played tennis in the fall, basketball in the winter, and softball in the spring.

But that was a different time. Collegiate athletes no longer play three sports and only a few have the opportunity to play two. The seasons have become longer and training for each specific sport has become more intense. I know of very few athletes who compete on more than one collegiate athletic team today.

While they may not be able to play multiple sports in college, many coaches are looking for high school athletes who did not specialize. One of the reasons that my coach answered my email and recruited me was because I was multi-sport. In fact, I played the same exact sports as her.

Although most collegiate athletes cannot participate in more than one varsity sport, intramural sports offer them an outlet. To fulfill my need for other sports, I will be taking part in the intramural basketball tournament put on by Monmouth.

PHOTO TAKEN by Caroline Mattise