When is it OK to play just one sport?

By Jon Buzby | Posted 1/18/2019

In a generation of time, or just slightly less, our attitudes have gone from kids specializing in one sport because, “it’s the only way they’ll get a college scholarship” to encouraging kids to play more than one because “most kids who get scholarships play more than one sport.”

Even the pro leagues and universities are encouraging multi-sport athletes and promoting the unofficial benefits of being one. This past year, the NFL published statistics about how most of their draft selections were multi-sport athletes in high school.

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So, what’s a parent to do when a child wants to give up a sport?

I’ve always been a big advocate of kids playing more than one sport, and whenever possible, encouraging my own kids to play three. Also, not just playing different sports during a season, but only focusing on one sport and not being drawn into playing in a basketball tournament during soccer season, for instance.  

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But inevitably there’s going to come a time – as has happened with my 12-year-old – that your child is not going to want to play three sports. Or in some cases, a player might want to just play one.

I think it’s OK for a child to play just one sport if it’s what they want to do. It shouldn’t be because the parent thinks it’s the only way for them to earn a scholarship. It shouldn’t be because a coach reiterates the same thought. And it shouldn’t be because they want to “specialize” in one sport.  

What it should be is what the player wants!

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A year ago, at this time, my son played flag football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and travel lacrosse in the spring. This past fall he played soccer for the first time ever and is currently playing basketball (his favorite). Now, in the spring he wants to play travel soccer instead of lacrosse – a sport he has played since he was 6.

His reason is simple: He had more fun playing travel soccer than he did travel lacrosse. It has nothing to do with the players or coaches of his lacrosse team, but more so that now he likes soccer second only to basketball and is convinced he will have more fun playing soccer over lacrosse. Simply because of the sport itself, no other reason.

Who are we as his parents to argue about what’s more fun for him. And so, we aren’t.

Kids play sports for one main reason – fun. It’s our job as parents to make sure they’re doing just that, so anyway we can support the aspect of “fun” should be our main priority.

Jon Buzby has been involved in and writing about youth sports for the past 30 years with perspectives as a parent, coach and board member. Jon is an award-winning writer and his latest book, “Coaching Kids Made Easier,” is available on Amazon. Send comments or future blog topics you'd like to see to JonBuzby@hotmail.com and follow him @YouthSportsBuzz on Twitter.