Young athletes should play as many sports as possible

Published 9:05 pm Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Back in my teenage days, I would always wince when I heard my grandfather or dad start a story with “Back in my day…”

However, if you will oblige me for just a few moments, I am going to jump in my time machine to go in the past.

Back in my day, we played every sport we could. My friends and I would play football in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring and summer. We didn’t concentrate on one sport and play it all year long.

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Nowadays, the thought process in many athletes, and parents, is if a child is good at a sport, you must play it all year long in order to stay ahead of the curve.

This first came about a few years ago with soccer, and has become even more prevalent with baseball and softball in the Deep South in recent years.

I hear stories of a young player’s “fall ball” efforts or tales of going to the batting cage or bullpen in November in order to get a jump on the competition.

Some well-respected doctors and athletic trainers are partially blaming the recent explosion of Tommy John surgeries on the year-round baseball system.

Young arms are not fully developed, and therefore are not physically ready to pitch or throw 12 months a year.

By playing football or basketball, the elbow and shoulder joints have a chance to rest and heal up on their own.

Also by playing more than one sport, a young athlete learns techniques that could help them in their chose sport.

Basketball uses a lot of quick footwork, baseball is huge with hand-eye coordination and football teaches physical toughness and playing through small hurts and pains.

I fully understand if a player doesn’t want to play another sport just for the shear lack of interest.

But parents shouldn’t treat that as an opening to ramp up the off-season training for one particular sport.

I was a decent football player, a sub-par basketball player and average baseball guy in my younger days. I never look back on those days and ask myself why I didn’t concentrate on one thing.


I was having too much fun being an athlete.


Ryan McCollough is a sports writer for The Messenger. He covers recreation, high school and Troy University athletics and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Alabama Sports Writers Association.