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Sick of Multi-Sport talk. This means more..

Forget talking about multi-sport. Im tired of that topic. Its turned into a mantra and an excuse to now require kids to play multiple sports all at the same time all year round. Specialization on steroids.  Leave it to us parents and coaches to ruin what was supposed to be a positive movement to alternate sports to protect our kids from injury and burn out.  If you hated the multi-sport movement, then you’ll really hate this one. It doesn’t follow the current sports overdrive trend at all. In fact, it down right drops it on it’s head.

Instead of talking about multi-sport lets dig deeper, and lets commit to not ruin this one because it’s incredibly important. How about multi-dimensional kids. We’ve put sports on the ultimate pedestal. I don’t know any parents whose kids aren’t playing sports anymore. Either we are developing some incredible genes in this country or there are some pretty miserable, not-so-sports minded kids being dragged through year-round misery, desperately hoping no one offers them a sports scholarship so they can end the madness.

In our sports focused culture, we call our players student-athletes. But how many coaches are really hoping to share their kids with those pesky ACT, AP TESTs, other activities, Prom, jobs, family events, trips, college visits, or huge projects that are stealing their focus? Our goal is to build great teams, we understandably want their complete attention and attendance. How many times as coaches do we get frustrated because these kids have other things on their minds or taking their time? Believe me, I’ve felt it. I’d love to have a team full of kids who do nothing but train. I could rock that state championship every year if that’s what I had. But that’s called professional sports, and that’s not the job we signed up for. We signed up for coaching kids, either young or through high school age and they do not owe all of their free time to practicing their craft.

Have you met their teacher, they also want their students to be focused on their classes, studying outside of class, working with their partners on their projects and growing.

Maybe you’ve met their parents, hoping that their kids whose schedules are overwhelmingly full will spend some time with their family, get their chores done and help around the house, be responsible, come along on summer vacations and to grandmas house over the holidays, and take care of their pursuits of excellence in school, sports, health, and their future.

How about their church, if that’s a part of their life then they’ve got a group that’s relying on them to show up, study, share, and grow in their faith.

Maybe they happen to enjoy other activities, ones that they are having a hard time fitting in without an incredible amount of guilt because they aren’t “Grinding” at their sport.

Perhaps that pesky manager at their work, the one from their job that allows them to pay for the gas and the car that gets them to school and practice, hopefully some college money and valuable work experience, would like them to show up, work hard and be available and reliable for their shifts.

Our kids are living in a shifting, full, colorful world and as sports become more and more important to all of us, we are building for our growing children a world of monotone, single focus, and dare I say, obsession?  I’ve watched a kid show up for his eagle scout  ceremony in tears becuase he had been so miserably guilt tripped by his coach about missing practice before a big game. Huge accomplishment ruined becuase this coach couldn’t get a grip on sharing importance in our kids lives instead of owning it.

I remember playing sports casually in the off season to stay in shape. I remember hard practices, Saturday practices, and games on the weekend. I played at top programs, we worked hard. But my schedule never came close to the demands being laid out today on our athletes. I worked at my part time job at Ledo’s pizza throughout lacrosse season, it was less hours but I managed it and it wasn’t that big of a deal. I didn’t travel all summer to tournaments, but remember attending one camp, and sometimes playing a once a week league game that no one cared about and was more for fun than anything else.  I played one sport at a time in an organized program and if you saw me playing multiple sports on the same day it was because I was at the park with my friends making up weird games and not feeling like sports were a job I needed time off from.  I enjoyed playing sports in my off time, it was often my go to activity with my friends because no one was calling it “training.”  There weren’t any coaches, there weren’t any parents unless they were having fun playing too. I asked for advice, it was rarely offered if I wasn’t seeking it. There wasn’t any pressure other than my own desire to get better, and yes folks, that was enough J

I saw a family out in the park playing soccer together and at first I had a nostalgic feeling of care free fun in the park. It lasted about two minutes until I saw the dad start digging into that little 6 or 7 year-old about her kick being all wrong and it went downhill from there. It wasn’t a fun day at the park at all, it was sport obsessed athletic training, before she could even probably write her own name.  What. Are. We. Doing?

Im looking at young kids who probably have a ton of engineering, artistic, math skills, other strengths and interests, being shoved into sports that they clearly don’t enjoy. Many kids we see being pushed the hardest aren’t particularly athletic and may never realize what other options are out there because these days sports are THE thing.  If they aren’t great at it then we just train them harder. I’ve never seen so many kids with their own personal training, sports specific one on one training, several travel teams, and 5-7 days a week of training all before even getting through middle school. One parent said they have tried everything, but their kids isn’t getting better and surely there must be another trainer somewhere I could suggest. Maybe they aren’t cut out for sports?? That’s OK!  What happened to multi-dimension? To kids trying many new things, finding their interests, spreading their time around, learning what they like?  What happened to it being ok to play sports just for fun and not for college? What happened to sports being an activity and not a job? Only a handful of kids are ELITE athletes, but we’re training em all like that’s what they have to be.

Playing sports in college is fun, don’t get me wrong. But would I trade my childhood for it? Nope.  Multi-dimensional focus is going to help our kids find out where their strengths are. If they are a super star athlete we’ll know, they don’t need specialized training to find that out.

So here’s the bottom line: We, as coaches, need to push our kids to be their best. But that awards ceremony for an accomplishment they spent all year or longer working towards that they have to miss practice for, that huge project that is 60% of their grade that’s stealing their out of practice “grind at the wall ball” time, that ACT test, or job they need to get out on time from practice for, those matter too.  Let’s find a way to put sports back into the puzzle instead of throwing out all of the other pieces and taking over. Multi-dimensional kids will make for a much brighter world. Only a small portion of these kids will go on to play sports even past high school. Those other activities that are cramping our style and stealing our players attention, will likely be the very skills they will use as an adult. We all need a little perspective check and muilt-dimension back in our lives.

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