As the high school football season across our great nation comes to a close for many, we are faced with the unenviable task of transitioning to the off-season. Collecting equipment, maxing out in the weight room, and other necessary tasks are put in place to get us ready for the upcoming season, which is only nine months away. But one of the first things my staff and I do is find out who is headed to another sport. Whether it be basketball, wrestling, baseball, or track, we always encourage our athletes to play another sport. Sadly though, it seems like the multi-sport athlete in our country is a dying breed…and we need to change that.
When I was a kid, August-November was for football, December-March was for basketball, and April-July was for baseball. Anything else seemed ridiculous. When we got to high school, if you were good enough, you played at least two sports; and believe me, almost everyone tried. However, something changed in the last 10-15 years that has led kids and their parents to believe that playing only one sport is the key to a college scholarship and professional riches. Now, if you are exceptional at one sport and not very good at anything else, then by all means, play one sport. But too many times in my career, I have seen exceptional athletes that should be playing everything, settling for “specializing,” and it does not work out for them like they had hoped. Who is to blame for this? I’ve got a couple of theories. It begins in youth select ball. USSSA, AAU, and other money making machines out there offer year round tournaments and leagues in their selective sports and these kids grow up knowing nothing else except the sport they have been force fed all their young lives. Parents are the next in line to take some blame. They are the ones who buy into this concept and it carries on to high school. I don’t know how many times I’ve asked a kid, “Why don’t you play football” and the answer a lot of times is “my parents don’t want me to, they say I have a better chance of a scholarship if I stick to ______.” I always respond with “That just isn’t true; you’ll get a scholarship if you are good enough; playing different sports will only help you.” Sadly enough it falls on deaf ears many times. Finally, the last target of my blame goes to unscrupulous high school coaches who want to keep their players with them year round. Any high school coach who tells a player that they should specialize is a selfish person who is only in it for themselves. It sickens me when I hear of this. Of course they don’t tell them directly, but they’ll go about it in a round-about way like “Look, you can go play football if you like, but the guys I choose as my starters are the guys that are here in the off season.”
The truth of the matter is there are so many positives to playing multiple sports, that there should not even be a debate on the matter. If it is a scholarship you are after, which is usually the case, one of the main questions a college recruiter will ask me when he visits is “does your player play other sports?” They absolutely love kids that stay competitive year round. That increased athleticism required in multisport athletes helps develop your overall muscle and body movements. This in turn can help reduce injuries that occur from over usage with wear and tear of repeated muscle movement patterns that specializing brings to an athlete. Each sport an athlete partakes in requires different disciplines. The mindset and discipline involved in changing sports is crucial, valuable, and aides the athlete in gaining supreme confidence.
Finally, if the player’s dream is to be like one of their professional heroes in the NBA, NFL, or MLB, then all they have to do is read up on the following guys: LeBron James-all state receiver in high school; Aaron Judge-three sport star in high school; Allen Iverson-all state QB in high school; Bo Jackson-played baseball for the KC Royals; Deion Sanders-played baseball for the Yankees and once claimed he could start for the Lakers also if given the chance; Troy Aikman-drafted by the Mets; and of course Tom Brady-drafted by the Expos.
UNTIL NEXT TIME: BUY IN-SELL OUT & SWING YOUR SWORD!!
Thanks for the inspiration Susie Aguilar!
by Scott Veliz
Oñate High School Head Football Coach