There are many examples of people who shined in multiple sports before reaching the apex of their craft (LeBron James and Allen Iverson both played high-school football). Plus, the benefits package for going the two-sport route is hard to pass up.
Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray has a lot of people’s attention right now.
He’s got NFL teams wondering if he’s gonna go the football route. He’s got MLB teams wondering if he’s gonna stick with baseball. And he’s got millions of sports fans wondering what his final decision will be.
But there’s another group I hope has become equally fascinated with Murray lately: parents. Because the guy is further proof that kids should play multiple sports.
A little less than a month ago, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson — who played football and baseball in college — was making the same argument. Asked about Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, a high-school-baseball star whom the Tigers drafted in the 37th round five years ago, Wilson reiterated his long-held belief that youngsters should grow up wearing as many uniforms as they can.
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“Yeah I mean, playing multiple sports, that really helps you in a drastic way to be able to throw a football and to be able to move a certain way and throw on the run,” Wilson said. “I try to tell kids all the time: Play as many sports as you can, because it really helps.”
It’s also really healthy.
One can certainly understand the argument for wanting to focus on one sport. The more you localize your practice, the more quickly you’ll separate from the pack, and the closer you are to that oh-so-coveted scholarship.
But there are copious examples of people who shined in multiple sports before reaching the apex of their craft (LeBron James and Allen Iverson both played high-school football). Plus, the benefits package for going the two-sport route is hard to pass up.
1) You expand your group of friends exponentially. And you diversify your social circle. The football crowd is gonna be different than the skateboarder crowd. Same goes for the baseball vs. jiujitsu crowd. Interacting with as many types of people as possible can only be beneficial.
2) You’re a lot less likely to burn out. I had this problem as a once-obsessed basketball player. Though my parents never pushed me, I would still practice three to four hours a day in my driveway or at the park and would become enraged if I felt like I hadn’t improved. This eventually led me to not wanting to practice at all.
Plus, as a one-sport athlete, the magnitude of every game is amplified, which creates unnecessary pressure. This is when having interests in other sports can reduce anxiety and actually help you play better.
3) You learn different roles. To paraphrase Shaquille O’Neal, it’s not the stars that win you championships, it’s the other guys. But until you’ve been in a supporting role yourself, it might be hard to relate to others’ experiences.
No reason for the star quarterback not to try his hand as the school’s ninth-best soccer player. No reason for the volleyball stud not to come off the bench for the softball team.
Unless you’re a future Hall of Famer, you’re going to be a role player at some point. And if you are that future Hall of Famer, it’s best to appreciate the role players surrounding you.
4) As Wilson said, the skills tend to overlap. Remember that absurd, side-arm touchdown pass Mahomes threw against the Seahawks? Go back and look at the replay, and you’ll see it most closely resembles a shortstop throwing from his side on a double-play ball.
It’s not just mechanics, though. Volleyball will help your jumping on the basketball court. Track will improve your speed on the soccer field. Multiple sports don’t detract from each other — they complement each other.
There are other reasons to spread the sports love around. Play the same game all the time and make the same movements (think tennis elbow), and the odds for overuse injuries increase. This is why the American Academy of Pediatricians recommends against sport-specialization before age 15.
But above all, I have to think the multi-sport kid is the happier kid.
Obviously, there aren’t very many Kyler Murrays in the world. The reason there is such intrigue surrounding his future is because this situation is so rare.
But he’s more than just a model for kids — he’s a blueprint for their parents to follow.