In the age of club sports and position-specific trainers, more high school athletes than ever are specializing in one sport with the hope of obtaining a scholarship to play in college.
But according to Dallas-area high school football coaches, specializing may not always be the best way to reach that goal.
Here’s what 10 D-FW coaches said about multi-sport athletes.
These answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Lee Wiginton, Allen
Without question, I’m a firm believer in multi-sport participation. There’s a couple of things that no matter how I prepare, I can’t prepare you for competition throughout an offseason the way that you being at a free throw line having to make a free throw when the game is tied, and there’s 1.2 seconds on the clock, and you either make it and win, or you don’t you’re gonna go to overtime. Or you’re in the batter’s box, and it’s a full count, and we’re down by one run, and the bases are loaded with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, and I’ve got to find a way to get on base. There’s nothing that I can do in the offseason, no type of competition drills, that can simulate a true game competition where others are really relying on me.
Spencer Gilbert, Carter
At high school age, I encourage all our guys to play multiple sports. In fact we push them into other sports once football is over just because we want them to be able to compete year round. I don’t really think that it takes away from the athlete going to the next level or even to professional sports. I think there’s a time in life that you start to specialize, but I don’t think high school is necessarily that time.
It depends on the kid and individual situation. If you’ve got a 7-foot kid, obviously he’s not going to be playing football, and he’ll be focusing more on basketball, which is understandable. But those guys that are gifted enough to play football, basketball and run track, I think they should be allowed to do that because if you look at today’s professional athletes, the majority of them play multiple sports in high school.
Jason Todd, South Oak Cliff
I prefer kids to play multiple sports, especially in their younger days of high school. They kind of get a feel for it and see which sport might be best for them. And then once you start getting to the junior or senior year, if there’s a sport where you’ve got an actual chance to go into the next level in, then I would advise you to make sure you focus on that mainly.
Bam Harrison, Kimball
I think playing multiple sports is great. Track and football go hand-in-hand to me. We have a lot of basketball players that have done well in the NFL. We have a lot of basketball players that are not receiving scholarships in basketball that will be great football players, but they get locked in on playing basketball, and then they get passed by in basketball when it could have been just as good and football. So playing multiple sports is a great thing. It helps the kids, and it helps the program.
I think a lot of parents are sending their kids to certain trainers for basketball training, and I think it is more so in basketball than it is anything right now. Basketball is a popular sport, and it’s indoors and in the AC, so more kids like that. But it’s less scholarships in basketball than anything.
Bill Elliott, Celina
If you go from one sport to another, it changes what your body’s doing, what the pressure you’re putting on your body. I look at our car, you have to change your tires, your oil because your car does the same thing day after day after day, and that wears it down. Our bodies are the same way. If I do the same thing, day after day after day, the same throwing motion, our body’s gonna wear down. And that’s why I think you saw the last few years, the huge influx of Tommy Johns, the shoulder problems and issues with baseball because of the overuse they were getting.
Carlos Lynn, Cedar Hill
I think it just depends on how good you are. I was a three-sport letterman. I went to school to play football, but I really think that’s a part of the high school experience to do as much as you can. If there’s something that’s standing out a little more, and you’re not as successful in some of the other things, then that’s a decision you will have to make to specialize and to do one thing. I would suggest, at first, at least try and see what else you can do.
Claude Mathis, DeSoto
I come from a small A school, so I played every sport, and that mentality would never change with me. If they want to go out and play two or three different sports, they can. My sons were doing it. But at the end of the day, my sons found out that it’s one sport that they can really thrive in and can get a scholarship to pay for their schooling and that was football. So, I supported them. But at the end of the day, it’s that young man’s decision for what he wants to do.
Sometimes you’ve got to find that one sport that’s gonna get your way through college, and I think that’s when the kids focus on it.
Reed Heim, Denton Guyer
If I am a recruiter, which this has happened to me before, and I go in and all things are equal, and I see a young man that plays one and that’s all he does. And then I look at another one that’s multi-sport, that competes year-round, maybe hasn’t had time in the weight room, I look at him go, “Wow, there’s really room for him to develop.”
I look at it as a college recruiter go “Gosh, once he takes it and switches over to just us, we’re not only gonna be able to use the skills that he’s learned in these other sports but man, he’s gonna get bigger in the weight room, once this is really what he does, just think what his ceiling is.” Whereas the flip side you might go, “Well, he’s just done this all the time, so is he topped out, and is there a chance that he may get burned out because this is all he’s done?”
Todd Rodgers, Argyle
I would probably say I’m No. 1 in the metroplex about multi-sport. I make compromises with our football players in the springtime. Seven of our nine starters this year on our baseball team were football players. Our track kids are football players. We always get a couple of football-basketball kids here, football-wrestlers. And so we want those kids to go experience other sports because every time I’ve sent them there, and they come back to football, they’re refreshed, they’re ready to go, they’ve learned something new that they can correlate to the game of football, and they’re able to utilize that with a rejuvenated mind. I don’t think there’s any sports that we offer in high school that I would say you need to play all the time.
Leon Paul, Lancaster
It’s non negotiable that you play another sport. If they compete year round, their competitive mind gets stronger and stronger and stronger. Football is a very competitive sport. And a lot of people think that you just need to work out and work bench press or squats. No, you need to work their competitive mindset as well. So I encourage, and I tell all the athletes “Tell your parents that just because football season is over, you’re not riding that bus home. You’re going to be helping the Tigers win in some way or another.”
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