Playing only one sport might not give you the athletic performance you are hoping to have
By Alex Strang
Many athletes only play one sport in their later years of high school, but if they want to take their athletics to the next level, that might not be the best option. It also causes overuse injuries because your body is not supposed to do the same movements all year long.
There are many reasons athletes choose to specialize. Some athletes feel pressured to excel at one sport and to put all of their effort into it. Others think that if they practice one sport all year they will have an edge over somebody who plays two or three sports and does not focus on only that sport. Athletes who have aspirations of playing at the next level might think that college coaches want them to play that sport as much as they can, leading them to specialize.
Dexter Athletic Director and Varsity Women’s Basketball Coach Mike Bavineau says that he has seen an increase in specialization. The decrease in two sport athletes has not been too dramatic, but there is a large drop off in three sport athletes: he said only three kids in the entire class of 2016 played three sports.
“You want kids to be in as many pressure situations as possible,” Bavineau said.
When winter rolls around, he wants his players to be used to that pressure of the game being on the line. He says there are many benefits to playing another sport: leadership skills, making them a better teammate, giving the body a rest from one sport, exposing the athlete to competition with different people.
Dexter Athletic Trainer Trevor O’Brien believes that the body needs a break and athletes should not play one sport year round.
“Statistics show that if you play more than one sport you’re less likely to get injured,” O’Brien said. “This is because overuse injuries are more common in one sport athletes. “Your body will adapt to multidirectional movement if you play multiple sports instead of just one movement year round like throwing a baseball.”
All you have to do to give your body a break from the same repetitive movements is to play another sport. Many sports complement each other and improve skills in the other sport. For example, cross country and soccer both have a focus on cardiovascular endurance. Since women’s soccer is in the spring and cross country is in the fall, these sports go hand in hand. Field hockey and ice hockey work similar skills as in lacrosse.
Many female athletes at DHS play field hockey and lacrosse while many male athletes on the ice hockey team also play lacrosse. Lacrosse and hockey are similar sports, but at the same time different enough where they work different movement patterns and planes that will prevent overuse injuries.
Junior Daniel Higgins believes it is a good idea to play two sports that compliment each other and he proves it works. In the fall, Higgins is a starter on the varsity soccer team. In the spring he runs varsity track. He is one of the fastest athletes on both teams.
Last spring he went to states and nationals as a member of the 4×800 meter relay team.
“Both sports improve my cardiovascular endurance and speed, so the two complement each other well,” he said. Soccer helps me with track and the track workouts help me for soccer.”
Most pro athletes played at least two sports in high school, and some even in college. Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Chris Johnson, Robert Griffin III, Jabrill Peppers, and Bo Jackson are all common names in football, but they all have something else in common, too. They all ran track. They are some of the fastest players in the game. If you could pick one athletic trait that separates Division I bound athletes from the average high school athlete, it is unquestionably speed. Speed is one of the most important skills for so many sports other than football, including soccer, field hockey, basketball, and hockey.
It’s no secret that the football program at Dexter has struggled in past years. Reasons for the lack of success are widely debated. But no matter what you think the program needs for success, one major skill that would help is speed. It puts the team at a disadvantage when they compete against teams like Chelsea, Saline, and Ypsilanti that have many of their skill players running track in the spring. The Dexter track team has lacked football players in recent years.
Former Dexter football defensive coordinator George Michos said if there is a good track coach, he would definitely want his skill players to run track.
“It teaches you the proper way to run and gets you fast. You can either pay somebody to coach you the proper way to run or you can just run track,” Michos said.
He believes the program will be more successful if more players run track because it will make the team faster overall.
There are always college recruiters at track and field invitational meets, but they are not only track recruiters. There are often college football recruiters and coaches talking to kids at meets in the spring. There are recruiters from a variety of sports watching kids that compete in track and field as a second sport.
If you only play one sport but want to be the best athlete you can be or have aspirations to continue a sport in college, the evidence suggests playing another sport too. If you can find a sport that complements one that you already play, your athletic performance can improve, and your risk of injury should decrease.