BEING A MULTI-SPORT ATHLETE MADE ME INTO THE PROFESSIONAL SOFTBALL PLAYER I AM IS TODAY.
One question I’ve been asked a lot throughout my career is whether softball was my first and only sport. Every single time I get asked that question, I laugh a little at first because softball was actually one of the last sports I picked. I feel like a lot of parents are always curious about this topic because they never know if they should have their kids just stick to one sport or allow them to play multiple sports while they’re young. I have, and always will be a firm believer that playing multiple sports will not only give you a huge advantage as an athlete but also in life. There are always pros & cons with anything that you do, but I believe the pros far outweigh the cons.
When I was young, we didn’t have access to social media or phones the way the younger generation has now. Being outside was the highlight of our days, especially after school hours. At the age of 7, I was constantly trying out different sports. I was enrolled in gymnastics, swimming, tennis, and softball. When I got to middle school, I decided to try basketball & volleyball. Then in high school, I tried beach volleyball, while also playing softball. Having played all these sports so early on, allowed me to really figure out my body and become the athlete that I am today, both mentally & physically. It wasn’t until I started to get more competitive with softball that I decided to lock in and dedicate my time to this beautiful sport. The more I look back on my time playing other sports, the more I realize the impact it had on me as I got older. I’ve broken it down to 5 points that I believe are beneficial to being a multi-sport athlete.
- Learning different skill sets: Every sport has a different goal, a different approach, and a different body function. Playing multiple sports allows you to learn a variety of skills that can be used to become a complete, multidimensional athlete. Whether it’s a physical skill like speed, reaction, or flexibility, or a mental skill like reading your opponent, increasing your sports I.Q., or competing, every sport will teach you something. It becomes your choice whether or not to add the skill set to your toolbox.
- Fewer muscle fatigue and overuse injuries: As a young athlete, your body is continuously changing and growing. Your body becomes vulnerable to overuse and overstress. When an athlete is continuously using the same muscles over and over again it can lead to overstressed muscles, which then can lead to injury. When you play multiple sports throughout the year, you change which muscle groups are being used; giving some muscles the rest they need, and other muscles the chance to work. There are many studies that show playing multiple sports can lead to increased muscle, motor, and skill development, while also working on general athleticism, balance, speed, and agility.
- Exposure to different roles: Maybe in softball, you’re the ace pitcher but in basketball, you aren’t in the starting 5. Whatever your role is, each sport will push you to become a better competitor, teach you how to adapt and overcome obstacles and expose you to a variety of situations. When you get into recruiting, that may be exactly what a college coach is looking for. They may want the athlete who knows how to compete, knows how to face obstacles, and can handle any given role.
- Less chance of burnout: Unfortunately, nowadays I hear about so many young athletes burning out. They’re falling out of love with the sport and aren’t having fun like they used to. When a young kid focuses on one sport, and their family also solely focuses on that one sport, the chances of burnout increase tremendously. It raises expectations and pressure among these young kids, which can be a heavy burden when their main focus should be having fun and playing free. Giving yourself the chance to play multiple sports will give you a variety of experiences, help keep things interesting, and hopefully remove the monotony and pressure that comes with playing a single sport. And when the time is right, you’ll know what sport you truly love and want to dedicate the most time to. Until then, keep your options open and have fun!
- It won’t ever interfere with greatness: and what I mean by that is, that playing multiple sports will never get in the way of being great. Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter, Elena Delle Donne, Robert Griffin III, and so many other star athletes have played multiple sports. Michael Jordan played baseball growing up; Derek Jeter played basketball in high school; Elena Delle Donne played volleyball in college, and Robert Griffin III played baseball and ran track. What distinguished these athletes from everyone else was their athleticism, their competitiveness, and their ability to play different roles. As I said earlier and will continue to say, the pros far outweigh the cons. Go outside, try different sports with your friends, join a neighborhood team, the middle school team/high school team, or a travel ball team. Give yourself the best chance as an athlete, especially while you’re still young. But the most important thing, no matter what sport you play, is to play because you have fun doing it.