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The Benefits Of Playing Multiple Sports

June 02, 2016

Sports are supposed to be among the purest and most enjoyable activities of a child’s life. However, it’s increasingly become a pressure-packed world where overbearing parents and the allure of scholarships and stardom take precedence over fun. Research has shown that playing multiple sports can help children or teens to not only enjoy themselves more, but that multiple sports can also help to prevent injuries and keep those children playing sports for longer.

Why Multiple Sports?

It’s not hard for parents to see the potential rewards that come from sports. Many parents believe that their investment into their children’s sporting activities will pay off in the form of a scholarship. Unfortunately, the numbers show that such an outcome is highly unlikely. In fact, fewer than 3 percent of participants in high school sports go on to play those sports in college. Furthermore, only 1 in every 10,000 high school student-athletes receives a scholarship. In other words, focusing on only one sport is hardly the payday many parents dream about.<?p> Instead of obsessing over one sport, a multisport approach is often best for everyone. For children, it gives them a chance to break up the pressure that comes with playing only one sport. For example, if a kid is struggling with baseball, he or she can instead focus on an upcoming hockey game and begin to boost self-esteem. Parents can also benefit from the more relaxed approach that comes with multiple sports. Their child’s softball games become less about getting to the next level and more about having fun, which should be the whole point of youth sports.

Multiple Sports and Injuries

It’s not uncommon for parents and coaches to discourage a child from playing multiple sports out of concerns over injuries. A potential basketball star may be discouraged from playing football because parents and coaches are trying to prevent the player from injury. However, the reality is that this is the exact wrong approach to take. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids shouldn’t focus on solely one sport until they’re at least 10 years old. There are two reasons for this: First, it lets kids try different things and have fun at each of them until they’re old enough to decide what they really want. Second, and more importantly, playing multiple sports helps children build their overall athletic abilities, as opposed to simply becoming proficient at the skills necessary to play a single sport. Those enhanced skills will help your children avoid injuries, particularly those that come as a result of repetitive actions, like arm injuries with baseball or softball pitchers.

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Listening to Children

It’s up to parents to hear and understand their children’s thoughts and desires, and turn them into action. Your child might not actively state that he or she wants to play a second sport, but it may be something you can suggest under the right circumstances. If kids are starting to burn out because of their main sport or if their grades begin to suffer, it may be a sign that they’re too stressed by their sport of choice. A second sport can make things fun again; it can give children something to focus on, and provide a new challenge to conquer. Sports can and should help kids become more confident, to make them more active physically and socially, and to teach them positive moral values. If you or your child decides that his or her current sport is lacking in any of these areas, enrolling your child in another sport may help re-ignite that spark.

Setting a Positive Example

A positive parental approach to multiple sports can help children better approach their activities. If you treat their busy schedule as an obligation as opposed to a way for children to have fun, that’s exactly how they’ll approach their sports. However, if you show interest and provide plenty of encouragement, you’ll help your son or daughter have fun in every sport he or she plays. It’s also important to set an example in the way you treat other people. Encourage every child, not just your own. Congratulate the winners, even if they’re not on your son or daughter’s team. Don’t yell at the referee after a bad call, and don’t admonish the coach if your child doesn’t get as much playing time as you hoped. Setting this type of example not only makes your child a better athlete, but a better person — and that’s perhaps the most rewarding part about kids sports.

Preparing Your Child for Practice

As a parent, it’s your job to keep your child’s schedule in order. It’s also your job to make sure your son or daughter gets the most out of each sport he or she plays. As you drive to practice, remind your child about the lessons he or she learned in previous practices and games. Discuss goals he or she established before the season, and how those goals can be turned into results. Above all else, establish the fact that these are activities to be enjoyed, and that the ultimate goal is that your child has a great time at practice.

Supporting Your Child

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Your child will look to you for support in good times and in bad. Here are some ways you can help your son or daughter maintain a positive mental approach to sports:

  • Let your child guide the post-game conversation. Giving him or her too many unsolicited pointers may come across as domineering.
  • Always look for the positives in any performance.
  • Be honest. If your child didn’t play well, don’t act like he or she played wonderfully. Put a positive spin on the situation by making sure your kid had fun.
  • Be aware of any negativity your child may have. If necessary, engage the coach in a healthy and positive conversation.

Encouraging your son or daughter to play multiple sports can have a tremendous trickle-down effect. In addition to giving children more positive influences and opportunities for exercise, they’ll get the chance to reduce any pressure they feel to excel in their main sport. They’ll also learn skills that can be directly applied to the other sports they play — resulting in a better and happier athlete. More than that, though, playing multiple sports helps kids learn time management, respect for authority figures and discipline — all of which will make them better people in the long run.

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