Sports specialization can have a negative impact across high school sports

By Stephen Spiewak | Posted 5/4/2017

Sports specialization is not an issue merely affecting football; rather, it’s something that’s impacting the entire high school sports ecosystem.

USA Football CEO Scott Hallenbeck teamed up with Bob Gardner, the executive director of the National Federation of High School State Associations (NFHS), to pen an opinion piece for USA Today High School Sports outlining the pitfalls of sports specialization.

The piece highlights that, while it might be tempting for high school students to attempt to master a single discipline, specialization typically is not the ideal path for overall athlete development.

“High school student-athletes eyeing potential scholarship offers or a starting role on their team may benefit from specific-sport training, but the benefits of playing more than one sport are too great to ignore,” Hallenbeck and Gardner wrote.

Hallenbeck and Gardner cite that playing multiple sports “propels physical literacy.” Participation in more than one sport can also lead to new friendships for athletes, as well as the opportunity to interact with different coaches and gain exposure to different styles of teaching and coaching.

Conversely, specialization can lead to burnout and injuries, both of which can cause athletes to prematurely quit sports altogether.

A staggering 30 of 32 first-round draft picks in the 2017 NFL Draft plays multiple sports in high school.

Established NFL stars like J.J. Watt and Jordy Nelson have praised the benefits of their first-hand experience playing multiple sports.

Whether for future NFL players or young people who won’t pursue team sports beyond high school, playing multiple sports can help shape young people on and off the field.