To play or not to play – why multiple sports matter

The following blog is an edited version of Tim Selgo’s March 27, 2016 blog post, Making the Case for Multi-Sport Athletes, on The Selgo Stop.


As parents, we are constantly faced with decisions about how to guide our children to make the right choices. As our kids get more involved in sports, there inevitably comes a point where they have to make a choice – to specialize in one sport or to play multiple sports. I’m here to tell you that playing multiple sports is the best way to create not only a physically and mentally strong athlete, but also a well-rounded individual.

For starters, it is scientifically proven to be better for young people’s bodies to get cross-training from playing more than one sport.  It is better for them physically and mentally to get away from one sport and play other sports.

This philosophy doesn’t just apply to youth in the K-12 school system. College coaches embrace this because they know that competitiveness, poise under pressure, using different muscle movements, adapting to different styles of coaching and learning, and being put in more leadership situations to become better leaders are wonderful advantages to allowing student-athletes to play more than one sport.

We encouraged it at GVSU and had numerous two-sport student-athletes during my time there. Certainly this can be a challenge if a student doesn’t have an “off season.”  And most importantly, the student has to handle the academics when playing two sports. However, most student-athletes are very capable of doing this, and most will tell you they do better academically during their season because they have more structure in their lives.  And these athletes came through in the clutch for us in various sports, and I attribute much of that to the fact that they learned how to compete better than those who only focus on one sport in their youth careers.  

So why don’t more kids in youth sports play more than one sport? Primarily, it is pressure from youth sport coaches.  Kids and parents are often told that their son/daughter must focus on one sport if they want to play in college.  This is simply not true.  Trust me, parents – if your kid is good enough, college coaches will recruit them!  And the best coaches at the college level are searching for multi-sport athletes.  

Why do youth non-scholastic sport coaches (i.e. AAU and club sport coaches) pressure your child to play only one sport?  Because they and the organizers of club teams make money off of these teams and will make less money if more kids play more than one sport.  Parents of youth athletes, be aware of this.  If you want your child to play college athletics, the best way is to let them play more than one sport in high school and reduce their participation in non-scholastic sports.  They will be stronger physically and mentally, more marketable to college coaches, better leaders – and you will save a lot of money in the process.

This is one of the reasons I am such a fan of the West Michigan Sports Commission’s signature annual event, the Meijer State Games of Michigan. Featuring a Winter Games with events in 20 sports and a Summer Games with 43 sports (and this year the Summer Games will be replaced by the biennial State Games of America), the State Games allow athletes of every age and ability to play any sport – and organizers encourage participants to sign up for several sports. It’s a great way to introduce your child to the fun of playing multiple sports, if they aren’t doing that already.

So don’t give into pressure by coaches, peers or what your children’s friends are doing. Playing multiple sports at the youth level will lead to greater success in sports – and life – far more often than focusing on only one sport.

Find other blog posts by Tim Selgo at The Selgo Stop.


Tim Selgo
Guest Blogger
A consultant with Athletics Staffing and Consultants, Tim was athletic director of Grand Valley State University for 20 years and led Lakers teams to 161 conference championships, 74 NCAA regional championships and 18 national championships until his retirement in 2016. Tim has been a member of the WMSC Board of Directors since 2008.

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