Winning Hoops poll: 93% of coaches disagree with specialization

February 5, 2018 / Winning Hoops
Sport specialization is a major issue in youth and high school sports. Some believe it’s the most reliable path to a college scholarship, while others say it leads to burnout and injuries.

In Winning Hoops’ latest poll, we asked readers their thoughts. A staggering 93 percent of coaches said they wanted players participating in multiple sports. Here are some of their comments.

Comments from coaches

• I feel it helps them be better balanced as an athlete, and it might open doors to opportunities they were’t aware of. Who knows, they might even find out they like a sport they didn’t know they would like. I feel it helps them with an improved general athletic IQ too.

• I think you need some time off from your primary sport. It also helps develop muscles that you don’t use in the primary sport, and gets you involved with a larger group of people.

• Playing multiple sports gives athletes other situations to draw from. An example: If an athlete can get through a tough track workout, they can get through the fourth quarter and overtime of a basketball game no matter how tired they think they are. Knowing they got through a super tough workout gives them the confidence to finish anything in another sport.

• The kids are not professionals, and the odds extremely high that are they are not going to be professionals. Kids need to have a well-rounded school experience. Specialization results in overuse injuries and burnout. Multiple surveys of professional basketball players shows that most of them were multiple sports participants in high school.

• Many skills transfer from sport to sport, and I want them to be able to enjoy all of the activities they can. I do not wan’t athletes burned out on my sport because it’s the only thing they do.

• It helps keep grades up, keeps them out of trouble, and it helps to improve their athletic skills. I really like my skilled football kids to play basketball, because it helps with catching the ball and helps with the idea of finding an open window and passing to open players. I like my linemen to wrestle to learn hand to hand combat. And in the spring, I really want them to do track and field to be in shape and to work on footwork skills.

• I believe it is best to play multiple sports for the following reasons: 1) Increasing studies are showing athletes that specialize are at greater risk for injury and burnout. 2) Students and athletes grow when they are out of their comfort zone. For example, a very good soccer player who is an average basketball player becomes a better soccer player and soccer teammate by playing a lesser role on their basketball team. They will have a great appreciation for each of their teammates roles and importance on the team. 3) Kids that specialize play far too many games in one calendar year. I hear many stories of middle school aged kids playing 100 games in one particular sport in a year. This is not good in any sport. When middle school kids are playing more games than college or professional adult players there is a problem! When are they working on skill development if they are playing 100 basketball games in a year?

• This is a tricky question! And basketball is such a skill-oriented sport that if kids don’t put in ample time on their craft, they usually fall behind if they want to compete at a high level. Unless they are just a freak-athlete. In my 18 years of coaching boys varsity basketball, all of my best players, except for one, have been so-called basketball kids. And the one that wasn’t (basketball was his second love) played football at Oklahoma University and in the NFL for the Atlanta Falcons. I believe kids can learn a lot from playing multiple sports, but nowadays if you don’t put in your time on the court, you will fall behind.