One of the most debated issues since I have been a coach is how many sports should a high school athlete play. Many people want their athletes to play as many sports as they can. Others want kids to focus on one sport and get as good as they possibly can at that one. There are pros and cons to both situations. My personal feeling is that an athlete should have one sport that they give their heart and soul to and have at least one other sport they play in to have fun and learn to compete in a different way.
I always tell athletes that they should have a sport that they give their all. A sport that they won’t have regrets in and that they put a focus into consistently. That sport should be whatever they have a passion for and are willing to work at. I find too many times kids don’t want to risk too much or put themselves out there. Working hard and being disciplined to be your best is something to be proud of. I have had many players tell me in the past that they were done playing basketball to focus on other sports. If it is the best for them to do that, then I totally will understand that decision. My hope for those kids is that they truly do work hard for their goals. It is a personal decision and one that we should respect as coaches.
I certainly would try to play as many sports as you can before getting to high school. At some point, an athlete may have to put focus on a certain sport to reach her full potential. Many people will say let them be kids and participate in everything. In some instances and schools that philosophy may work. In other schools, the competition is too great to take that perspective. I have seen many athletes during my coaching career try to play so many sports that they are just average and don’t get a major role in any sport because they have been spread too thin. Some athletes can accept that, and if they can, great. For many kids that is the best thing for them. Others become frustrated and even quit playing all sports. That is why I am a supporter of a two sport athlete or the three sport athlete where one of the sports is an individual sport. The three sport athlete can be tough, especially if it is in three teams sports were the expectations to do extra out of season work is the norm such as volleyball, basketball, softball and soccer. Certain three sport combinations work better than others, especially ones that are more individual at times.
We have had three athletes in our basketball program in the last eight years who have played three of those four team sports (ex. volleyball and softball) for all four years of high school. One of those three made an all-conference basketball team. We have had seven kids that have played three sports that include two individual (ex. golf and track) or one individual and one team (ex. tennis and soccer) during these eight years. All seven made an all-conference basketball team. We have had 14 kids play two varsity sports during their four years of high school. Six of those have been all-conference. We have not had any athlete just play basketball as her only sport for four years.
The breakdown of those sports that our players made all-conference is as follows: Nine played volleyball. Four played soccer. Three played tennis. Three played softball. Two ran track and one played golf.
I am coming at this from the point of view of a basketball coach. I am sure other sports may have a different reaction. If I know the kid is a basketball player and has high expectations as a basketball player, she is not only going to play in high school, but she will probably play AAU as well. That is nine months of basketball from November to July and maybe even some opportunities in August, September and October. I am not writing about whether this is right or wrong. This is the way it is in the competitive basketball world. Some players can be successful without AAU, but the norm is for the top players to play. Because there is so much emphasis on basketball during this time, it is nice for a player to get away from that and compete with different coaches, players and sport.
I am in no way an expert at every sport but here are some of the positives I see in the other sports specifically for the basketball player. Not all schools have all sports but here are some options for fall and/or spring:
A great conditioning sport that should get players in a good starting shape for the season. Runners train at different times of the year on their own if they have conflicts. It is not only a physical challenge, but it can be quite the mental challenge as well.
I have coached girls’ golf and currently coach the boys’ team. What I like about golf is that every time you go out, you play. There isn’t necessarily the physical work you would want for a basketball player, but the mental edge of having to make a putt is similar to the focus of making a shot.
It is a great conditioning and muscle building sport. It is also a little easier on the joints and may give a player some time off of their feet. It definitely is a mental challenge.
If I have a basketball player come to me wanting to play a fall sport but does not have a clue what to play, I often suggest tennis. We currently have two all-conference basketball players that excel in tennis. The mental toughness, conditioning, agility and hand-eye coordination make it one of the better sports to play.
Is a team game that has to be played well together to have success. The other fall sports can certainly have more individual achievement, whereas volleyball is like basketball in that you need a team to have a quality product. The agility and jumping ability make it a sport that can be helpful.
The conditioning and agility make it a great game to play. The teamwork needed for quality soccer is also important. I am far from a soccer expert, but I feel basketball has evolved and become more like soccer in the free flow of the game.
Depending on what position you play, there are different benefits. The reaction skills players need are really helpful. The anticipation of what is going to happen and having to make quick decisions are important. Also, pressure situations of the game can’t be beat for competitiveness.
Track and Field
Many benefits in different events. As far as working on speed and strength definitely a sport that should help. It really allows the individual to highlight her athletic ability.
I feel a basketball player can gain valuable experience in becoming a better athlete and competitor from playing other sports. In this day of sports specialization, it is difficult to compete in three, but the athlete should think about doing at least one other during high school. If you have a chance to do an individual sport give it a try. Keep on working on your basketball by putting everything you can into it. Don’t be afraid to try something else. You may find that it helps your basketball game.
Written by Beaver Dam girls basketball coach Tim Chase, who has coached for more than 20 years.