You may watch a movie from a few years ago or read an article on a current professional athlete that tell of how the protagonist was a jack of all trades; lettered in baseball, basketball, and football, etc. Nowadays, however, these “Renaissance Men” seem to be disappearing. What happened to ole’ Billy who could drop 30 points for the bball team then smash a home run on the diamond? In today’s world of increased speciality and competitiveness, as well as year-round sports, the multisport athlete has become an endangered species. There is no reason for this trend, and it is one we should avoid, just like traffic.
I speak from experience. As a freshman, I came into high school with the idea of playing both baseball and basketball. I loved the two sports dearly, and had committed myself equally to them. There was a slight glitch, though. Basketball season bumped up right into baseball season, meaning there would be no in between time to switch my focus. Oh well I thought. I can make it happen. However, I quickly learned that playing a high school sport required a lot of dedication. It came to a point where I was really only practicing baseball once a week, with the majority of my time being sucked up by school and basketball. When baseball tryouts came around, I felt fairly confident. After all, it was only freshmen. Unfortunately, when I got out onto the field, things changed. I was extremely nervous and began to realize I had definitely lost some skill over the past season. On the last day of cuts, the coaches informed me that I would not be playing that year, a huge blow to my psyche.
Long story short, I played JV baseball the next year. It came at a price, though. I had been cut from the JV basketball team, giving me the time to prepare. Now I focus solely on baseball, though I still love basketball. Mine is a sad example of how kids are being narrowed down into one sport over time, a disheartening loss of diversity in sports.
A brief synopsis of my failures on both occasions could be summed up to He wasn’t good enough. After all, isn’t that why most guys get cut? When looking at both those teams, one would see that the vast majority of the players played only that particular sport. And those that played others usually had a break in between to get ready. Had I focused on one or the other the whole year, I’m quite confident I would have made either team easily.
This is something that is happening to kids other than me. They play all the sports they love, but then are forced to make a decision on one lest they risk losing it all. Part of this is due to parents who make their kids play one sport from a young age, and watch them carefully as they continue to practice throughout their childhood. By doing so, they not only overlook the interests of their son or daughter, they also create an ultra-competitive environment where being “good” is not enough.
This is not to say one can’t feature multiple sports. With the right balance and good abilities, it is possible to succeed at multiple facets of athletic feat. It has just become increasingly hard over the years, causing kids like me to give up sports they love to play.
So let your kids run wild. Don’t force them into anything or make them practice everyday. Some might want to, but it is their choice. If you don’t want your kid to play a certain sport for other reasons (ahem football), that is your choice as a parent. But living vicariously through your child or helicopter parenting over them all day every day does no good to the athletic community. Let your children run (or swing or kick or throw) free, and encourage a diverse world of sports.