3 reasons to encourage your children to play multiple sports

By Jackie Bledsoe Jr. | Posted 11/4/2014

A few years ago my nephew was entering his freshman year of high school and was splitting playing time on his high school varsity and junior varsity basketball teams. One of his friends was also playing on the varsity team.

I heard a lot of promising things about this kid, and when I watched him he didn't disappoint. The kid ended up being a starter on the varsity team and their best player.

A couple years later, the squad was one of the best high school teams in the state, but what intrigued me most was the fact that two of their main players were also football standouts: the friend I mentioned earlier and another kid.

In a time when many kids begin to specialize in one sport, these two continued to play two sports and played them at high levels. Both were encouraged to focus on one by outsiders. The reason being that focusing on one sport would allow them to develop, and it could keep them from getting hurt, thus ruining their chances in the other sport.

One of them, Gary Harris, was a first round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, and the other, Randy Gregory, is playing for the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team and being compared to both Jadeveon Clowney and Jevon Kearse. I think both have benefited from playing football and basketball.

Their success and the success of many other two-sport athletes who are excelling in the NFL makes a strong case for playing multiple sports not only as younger athletes, but at higher levels as well. Here are three reasons to encourage your kids to not specialize, but play multiple sports as long as they enjoy playing them and are able to compete. 

  1. Increased athleticism. Playing multiple sports develops your body and muscles in various movements. Playing and training for different sports requires you to be able to different athletic moves well. The lateral movements and vertical leaps of basketball players benefit football players, especially tight ends and receivers. 
  2. Fewer injuries. Today's young athletes seem to suffer some of the same injuries that professional and high-level college athletes do. Many believe it is because the trend is to specialize at an early age, which puts many more "miles" or wear and tear on their muscles at a younger age. Using different muscles for different sports can reduce that wear and tear.
  3. Discipline and confidence. The discipline to train your body and mind to play different sports is highly valuable. Each sport requires different disciplines, which constantly challenge athletes physically and mentally. An athlete can also take the success of one sport and use that as confidence builder in another. Learning to overcome challenges translates across the board.

If your kid enjoys multiple sports, encourage them to keep playing both as long as they can. Doing so does not guarantee them a spot on the NFL Draft board or the draft board of any other sport, but it can help them in many ways. And you never know. That skill they developed playing basketball or another sport may give them a unique ability on the football field which enables them to stand out and excel.

What other sport do you think is most beneficial to a football player?

Jackie Bledsoe is a writer, blogger, speaker, husband and sports parent of three. He’s played sports for more than 30 years, including the collegiate level, while coaching youth sports for the past nine years. You can read more from Jackie on his blog, JackieBledsoe.com, and connect with him on Twitter (@jbledsoejr).