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Multi-sport participation key for women’s World Cup champs

Add Abby Wambach to the growing list of athletes who credit multi-sport participation for helping them excel at their respective sport.

Abby Wambach credits basketball with helping her become a better soccer player. | Photo: Noah Salzman, Wikimedia Commons
Abby Wambach credits basketball with helping her become a better soccer player. | Photo: Noah Salzman, Wikimedia Commons

USA Today published an interesting piece last week, focusing on the members of the U.S. women’s soccer team and their backgrounds in various sports. Wambach said her experiences on the basketball court carried over to the soccer field, where on Sunday she and her teammates led the United States to a World Cup title, the team’s first since 1999.

“Playing basketball had a significant impact on the way I play the game of soccer,” Wambach told USA Today. “I am a taller player in soccer, in basketball I was a power forward and I would go up and rebound the ball. So learning the timing of your jump, learning the trajectory of the ball coming off the rim, all those things play a massive role.”

Wambach lettered in basketball at Our Lady of Mercy High School (Rochester, New York).

From the article:

Midfielder Morgan Brian played basketball all four years of high school and says it is “the same game as soccer, in terms of vision.” Forward Amy Rodriguez swam, played softball and ran track. Lauren Holiday also competed in track, played basketball and baseball and “would have played football if they had let me.”

“Having that variety is an awesome thing and I would encourage any young athlete or parent not to restrict themselves,” Holiday added. “Doing different things develops different parts of your body. It can help prevent injuries and definitely help prevent burnout.”

“It is really unfortunate seeing how things are going with some kids these days,” said back-up central defender Whitney Engen. “It is easy to fixate on those 10,000 hours but sport is such a subtle thing. You might not realize that what you’re doing in volleyball is improving your spatial awareness and communication, but in reality maybe it is.” 

The article notes that a survey of team members found that collectively they played at least 14 different sports competitively while growing up.

NFL star JJ Watt and Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon have also railed against sport specialization. A number of youth athletes today are led to believe that specialization provides the greatest chances of success in that individual sport, but research suggests otherwise.

Click here to read the full article from USA Today.


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