Nearly 90% of players drafted in this year’s NFL Draft played multiple sports in high school.
The team over at Tracking Football, a site for compiling data on high school athletes, put together a really interesting graphic after the most recent NFL Draft came to an end. Check it out.
— Tracking Football ® (@TrckFootball) May 1, 2016
What do you think? Is this the deciding factor for being a single sport vs multi-sport athlete? Or could it be that more naturally gifted athletes gravitate towards multi-sport participation because they’re good at everything and receive external motivation to succeed across many domains?
I agree to the point that playing multiple sports improves motor skill development in younger athletes, but I’d also venture to say a narrowed focus is a key component to mastering a sport. Either way, it’s a really interesting stat!
To go into a bit more detail, athletes in sports like basketball, baseball, and football could all benefit from having exposure to other sports and movement patterns all throughout high school. Not only would their overall athleticism have a greater chance of improving, they would also have better chances of avoiding burnout, staying active during offseasons, and having a bigger social circle (bigger mental impact than you’d think).
On the flip side, they would miss out on important sport-specific training that goes on during the offseason and extend their window of mastering their respective sport. Whether you believe in the 10,000-hour rule or not, a pure shooter on the basketball court isn’t made by throwing a baseball or football in the offseason. And a lightning quick defensive back isn’t created by running 10,000 meters three months out of the year.
The answer to the overall athletic development vs skill mastery debate has to do with the sport itself. If your child wants to be an exceptional golfer, bowler, archer, tennis player (potential exception), or other skill specific sport, they probably need to focus on the mastery of that sport at an early age. The carryover between football and golf likely won’t be as significant as the time sacrificed that could have been spent working on putting. Whereas a basketball player, who has developed quick feet, acceleration, and a solid vertical leap, would be an excellent wide receiver candidate and vice versa.
What will you do with your future athletes? Until something a bit more conclusive comes out, I’d be tempted to say go with specialization after the prepubescent years. But what do I know? I never made it to the league!