By Andy Kidd \'99, Episcopal School of Jacksonville Director of Athletics
With athletics at the high school level becoming increasingly competitive, it can be tempting for a student to spend his or her time and energy training for one sport all of the time. While specialization in one sport is a choice best made by the athlete and his or her family, and should not be determined by a coach or a school, students and parents should also understand how beneficial playing multiple sports can be.
Here are several ways that playing more than one sport can help an athlete succeed in ways you may not have considered:
Playing more than one sport provides cross-training. For example, training for football can make you stronger for basketball; volleyball can help you jump higher for basketball; softball can help with your hand-eye coordination for volleyball. Skills can be transferable across sports while providing the student with additional exposure to great coaching.
Avoid overuse-injuries. Giving different muscle groups a break while playing a different sport is important. A baseball player who takes a break from pitching to play soccer or a volleyball player who gives her arm a rest while she runs track are working different muscle groups, becoming stronger overall while not over-straining one part of the body.
Avoid burnout. Athletes who focus on one sport or activity all year beginning at a young age can experience sport fatigue or \"burnout,\" which can lead to less enthusiasm and passion for that sport. Playing multiple sports can keep athletics fresh and exciting over the course of a student\'s school career -- and keep them energized about competing in that sport in college if they choose to pursue that opportunity.
Present as stronger, multi-talented candidates for college recruitment. More than 50% of Episcopal\'s Class of 2019 college athlete commits played multiple sports during their high school years at Episcopal. Being able to show they are flexible with multiple coaches, all-around athletic, and strong across several disciplines can help athletes present better when opportunities arise to play at the collegiate level.
Awards and scholarships. Playing more than one sport also helps student-athletes interested in applying for awards or scholarships, especially for students in Florida. The FHSAA (Florida High School Athletic Association) and FACA (Florida Athletic Coaches Association) require two varsity letters earned in the junior and senior years in order to be eligible for most of the scholarship opportunities they offer. Playing more than one sport ensures that a student-athlete is giving himself the best opportunity to earn scholarship dollars from the state associations.
School athletic programs are helped when student-athletes are playing more than one sport. Episcopal teams consistently compete for district, regional, and state championships, thanks in part to multi-sport athletes. For example, this year\'s boys\' cross country team advanced through districts and regionals and finished top 15 in the state, and everyone on the roster is a multi-sport athlete. Outside of cross country season, these athletes also participated in tennis, pole vault, wrestling, rowing, and track. Athletes playing multiple sports all make programs stronger.
While specialization absolutely can make sense for a particular student-athlete -- and that choice should be supported by the student\'s coach and school -- many students can also benefit from playing more than one sport. A chance to compete in multiple ways, receiving the best instruction from different coaches, and working different muscle groups can be extremely beneficial in ensuring a student's high school athletic career is a positive, exciting, and healthy experience.