By: Mic Edwards
In modern society there has been a tremendous decline in multi-sport athletes in high school. According to Danielle Elliot of, Yahoo Sports, “Once an athlete shows talent in one sport, he or she is generally encouraged to drop the other sports, to concentrate on the sport that could be his or her ticket to a college scholarship.” With the rise of AAU and other travel associations, it makes it much easier for kids to do just that. More and more parents are convincing their kids this false belief, and I can’t stand it. Kids absolutely need to play multiple sports growing up. Playing other sports do nothing but complement each other, and will benefit an athlete in so many ways. In this article, I examine popular professional athletes that played more than one sport at the high school, college, or professional level as well as a few opinions from coaches and former and current professional athletes regarding the importance of playing multiple sports.
Popular multi-sport NFL players:
|Russell Wilson||Jameis Winston||Jimmy Graham||Tony Gonzalez||Robert Griffin|
Jimmy Graham played both football and basketball for the Miami Hurricanes. He is currently a tight end for the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL.
In the 2015 NFL Draft, NFL teams selected 256 players. 224 played multiple sports in high school. That is roughly 88% of athletes in the 2015 draft class.
For all the high school football athletes that believe they should only focus on football, think again. The NFL is filled with multi-sport athletes.
Popular multi-sport MLB players:
|Jackie Robinson||Mike Trout||Jeff Samardzija||Buster Posey|
|Basketball||Football||Football and Basketball|
#83 Jeff Samardzija
Jeff Samardzija, recently signed by the San Francisco Giants, played football and baseball for Notre Dame. With his multi-sport success, he was faced with a decision to choose to go the NFL or to the MLB. “You need to go by your heart and what you love the most.” Samardzija gained respect in both sports throughout his college career. With the skills he developed in both sports, and the desire to be great, he currently ranks as one of the top pitchers in the MLB. This year he will be with the San Francisco Giants.
Popular multi-sport NBA players:
|Allen Iverson||Michael Jordan||Stephen Curry||Wilt Chamberlain|
NBA legend Michael Jordan also played in the MLB
The NBA has been filled with multi-sport athletes as well. LeBron James was an all-state wide receiver at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s. He was actually recruited by Ohio State and Notre Dame to play football.
I simply don’t understand what high school kids are thinking. If one of the best players in the NBA was a multi-sport athlete in high school, kids from all over should strive to do the same. I guarantee that LeBron developed skills in football that help him with his NBA career.
The most elite, professional athletes have played multiple sports throughout their lifetime, other than their dominant sport. Sports naturally help each other out. For example wrestling helps build aggressiveness, toughness, and allows for one to become a better football tackler. Track and field increases your speed, which is beneficial in every single sport. Basketball forces you to jump high and go up and get rebounds in traffic, this is a perfect scenario for a wide receiver or a soccer player that needs to out jump the opponent. Baseball and Hockey players build excellent hand eye coordination skills, which an athlete needs in every single sport. Soccer players have amazing footwork and conditioning. The list goes on. Sports benefit from other sports. The best athletes have played multiple sports. They are better rounded and have gained multiple skills through multiple sports.
A number of very successful coaches also believe in the importance of being a multi-sport athlete.
2014 National Championship winning coach, Urban Meyer is obviously one of the best college football coaches. On his recruiting visits, Meyer specifically asks if the athletes play multiple sports. There was a leaked chart that 42 of 47 of urban Meyers recruits in 2015 played more than just one sport in high school. This helped coach Meyer build skills in all areas. Those guys did not just play one sport; they played multiple and helped them build skills in all areas. They played basketball, baseball, track and field, etc. He knows that sports do nothing but benefit from each other and many other coaches feel the same way.
2013 Super Bowl champion head coach Pete Carroll is all for multi-sport athletes. In an article written from Pete Carroll’s college coaching days at USC, he states “The first questions I’ll ask about a kid are, ‘What other sports does he play? What does he do? What are his positions? Is he a big hitter in baseball? Is he a pitcher? Does he play hoops?’ All of those things are important to me. I hate that kids don’t play three sports in high school. I think that they should play year-round and get every bit of it that they can through that experience. I really, really don’t favor kids having to specialize in one sport. Even at USC, I want to be the biggest proponent for two-sport athletes on the college level. I want guys that are so special athletically, and so competitive, that they can compete in more than one sport.”
Dom Starsia, the lacrosse coach for the University of Virginia prefers multiple sport athletes to single sported athletes. He states, “My trick question to young campers is always, ‘How do you learn the concepts of team offense in lacrosse or team defense in lacrosse in the off-season, when you’re not playing with your team?’ The answer is by playing basketball, by playing hockey and by playing soccer and those other team games, because many of those principles are exactly the same. Probably 95 percent [of our players] are multi-sport athletes. It’s always a bit strange to me if somebody is not playing other sports in high school.”
Tommy Amaker, head coach of the Harvard basketball team, took the time to speak about one of his players that play both basketball and football at Harvard. “I love to see kids playing more than one sport. I just think it’s an opportunity to learn in a number of different capacities. We have a guy on our team that played football and basketball in high school and he’s doing it now at Harvard. It certainly brings about a grit and a grind in terms of football and a toughness and physical, He’s just a great leader he has learned from other great coaches in different sports, I like that. It helps with growth and development.”
There are also a number of players, former and current, that have taken the time to address the importance of athletes playing multiple sports.
Deion Sanders is all for multi-sport athletes. He went on the Rich Eisen show and talked about how he doesn’t understand why there aren’t more multi-sport athletes like him and Bo Jackson. Both Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson both played in the MLB and the NFL.
Larry Fitzgerald, wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, also spoke out on multi-sport athletes: “Today, a lot of kids individualize in a specific sport. I think one of the things that helped me most was playing everything. I played basketball, I played football, I ran track. I even played soccer one year, [and] I played baseball. I think it allowed me to recruit different muscles [and] work on different things that I normally wouldn’t. And, it gave me a greater appreciation for the sport that I’ve come to love.”
Abby Wambach, captain of the U.S. Women’s national soccer team specifically stressed the importance of playing more than one sport. “Playing basketball had a significant impact on the way I play soccer.” Alex Morgan, another member of the U.S.Women’s national soccer team was also a multiple sport athlete. She stated “The early teens are a difficult age because definitely you want your kids to grow up and do whatever they want to do; you don’t want to push them too hard in one particular sport. My parents allowed me to play volleyball and softball and basketball and soccer at one time and I loved it. I was playing all these other sports so it wasn’t too much wear on the soccer field and it wasn’t too much wear on a repetitive exercise.”
I highly encourage young athletes to drop the AAU/travel teams that are year round, and play a variety of sports, especially while their young. As you can see from this article, top-notch athletes and coaches encourage athletes to play multiple sports. If the best of the best are playing multiple sports when they are young, and are highly suggesting that all athletes do the same, then listen to them. They are obviously doing something right to reach the level that they are at, and I truly believe that started with becoming a more well rounded athlete by playing multiple sports. They developed a wide range of skills, both mental and physical from other sports, and I guarantee they don’t regret it. They are the best athletes for a reason, and playing multiple sports helped shape them into the athletes that they are today.