The Value of Multi-sport Participation

Suzanne Dewey
Students at Holderness are encouraged to play multiple sports. This philosophy is backed by research and many professional athletes advocate the value of a multi-sport approach to competitive play.
Parents want what is best for their kids. But, today knowing what is the best course of action can be confusing. Should you limit snacks or allow grazing? Should you encourage staying up late to finish homework risking a full restorative night of sleep? And when it comes to sports and being the best athlete one can be, increasing college acceptance opportunities and the like, specializing is the way to go. Right? Maybe not.

There is a growing body of research and even more professional athlete testimonials that indicate being a multi-sport athlete is the better way to go. Better how?

Research indicates that kids who don’t fall prey to the siren of specialization will have better muscle and motor skill development. Some studies indicate that multi-sport participation leads to greater athleticism in general, better balance, agility and even speed. Some research goes even further and as Aaron Wright, director of Ohio University’s online master’s program in Athletic Administration suggests specialization for youngsters can be “detrimental physically and psychologically...It can hamper development and lead to burnout and repetitive stress injuries.” (Los Angeles Times, “Can high school athletes succeed after playing multiple sports?” by E. Sondheimer, Nov. 23, 2014)

The American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness suggests
     • limiting one sport to a maximum of five days/week and at least one full day’s rest
       from any form of physical activity…
     • athletes should have at least two to three months off per year from their particular        sport

A 2015 online article in asks “Why Should a Young Athlete Specialize?” and summarizes by stating “if you want your kids to stay healthy, stay motivated, and perform better in the long run, the experts and the research say that multi-sport participation before adolescence is the way to go.”

At Holderness, students are encouraged to play multiple sports. For example, skiers will train in the autumn by participating on the mountain biking team or basketball players will be on the lacrosse field or even playing tennis in the spring. Whether soccer, hockey, lacrosse, or another sport is deemed the favored sport, finding balance and action in other sports is part of a well-balanced program.

This thinking is personified by the 2017 Super Bowl athletes: “88.7 percent of the players from the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons played multiple sports in high school.”

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers states, “I think kids can get burnt out playing AAU basketball the entire year or traveling baseball the entire year...I think it’s going to be important for kids to not be as one-sport-centered as we move forward...You want to see guys who are playing multiple sports and have that competitiveness because a well-rounded athlete, I think, is going to be better with adversity.”

“There is a great value to playing a variety of sports,” indicates Athletic Director, Rick Eccleston. He goes on to state that regardless of experience, size or even ability, Holderness students can and are encouraged to play on an athletic team. “Our philosophy centers on a life-long appreciation of sports. Holderness graduates continue to play competitively -- some go on to sign an NHL contract, others might compete in a world cup event for skiing or others are endurance runners and may have just completed the Western States 100 Miler and some may be on their college’s ultimate frisbee team. Our alumni succeed at the highest levels and have a lifelong passion. We encourage novice athletes toward exposure and development; we also want to see elite athletes excel. For most, excellence is a well-rounded training program that does not solely focus on one sport throughout the year. Our thinking around multiple-sport athletes is aligned with the latest research and what we see echoed by many professional athletes. There is considerable value to be a well-rounded athlete and our alumni demonstrate that you can compete at the highest level of your sport while doing multi-sports!”

Other stories that may be of interest:

Dartmouth Athletic Director Drives Home His Point Holderness is fortunate to have the athletic director at Dartmouth as an advisor and trustee. In February, he provided an overview of what Dartmouth looks for in athletes, which was well reported by Lolo Zabaleta ’18 in The Picador.
Holderness School
33 Chapel Lane, Holderness NH, 03245
mail P.O Box 1879 Plymouth, NH 03264-1879
phone (603) 536-1257