Coaching Multisport High School Athletes – Junior high and high school students playing 2 or more sports to improve their athletic skill-set can be greatly beneficial to the teen (and the school they represent) but, in my personal experience, this is much more difficult to “pull off” than many of those encouraging the student to play many sports realize.
Coach Adam Cook, Patrick Mahomes’ high school football coach, discussed the importance of multisports in the pheonom’s rapid climb in football and how it was attributed to also playing high school baseball and high school basketball. The reasoning is simple… Patrick’s unique abilities transcended baseball and basketball to give him added dimensions as a football player. There’s no way to really argue against that, and I won’t even try to.
In my own personal experiences with athletes, the coaching multisport high school athletes theory is an “easier said than done” experience for the child (and especially their parents). In my experience, high school coaches love it… until your child has a scheduling conflict (other sport, school activity, part-time job) that interferes with the coach’s agenda. Then… they don’t love it at all.
Often times, coaches have rigorous off-season suggestions (far more rigorous than “back in the day”) in place which makes playing additional sports extremely difficult. Often, these “suggestions” often seem like demands that make it nearly impossible for the child extend his range beyond 1 sport or their “chosen” sport. Other suggestions often include specialty camps for 1 sport, offseason training programs, even extremely expensive travel teams. Often, there isn’t any real offseason – for any one of these sports any more (much less two or more).
For example, when my son was a HS Freshman tennis player for his school, his coach at the post-season awards banquet let it be known to all that the end of the season “was just the beginning” for next year. Kids were prodded into offseason training at a private tennis club (at parents expense) a session throughout the offseason while being encouraged to partake in other high school sports. The looks my son received from coaches when he couldn’t attend “every” offseason workout due to his baseball OR due to his parents not being able to afford tennis, baseball, and travel baseball was not the look of a coach who really said he wanted a multi-sport athlete.
This was a sad realization for me, my son was on the frontline of this battle. He’s a great teammate and wants to please his coaches, yet here he was disappointing coaches every time he approached them to say he had a game or practice conflict with his other sport. My son simply could not do both his tennis and his baseball at a high level. Plus, he had endure less than favorable treatment from both of his coaches when 1 sport (or money) got in the way of the coach who at one time extolled the virtues of being a multisport athlete. It was a very confusing situation for him. I felt terrible as a parent that my son felt “the brunt” of a coach or two who was unhappy with my son’s interest in 2 sports.
This is one example. Due to the length of this post, I’ll leave out other stories I’ve know of from other youth sports parents about the impact they’ve felt from their son or daughter participating in more than one sport (or other endeavors like band, clubs, or a summer job). My story is just the tip of the iceberg when compared to how other parents have had to deal with parenting multisport athletes.
DISCLAIMER I – I am in NO WAY faulting these coaches for their desire for these players to be the best players they can. The reasoning is perfect, the reality of time and parents’ money constraints is the challenge. In my son’s perfect world, he would have an endless amount of time to pursue all of his athletic interests while maintaining high grades. As his parent, I would also enjoy the luxury of a blank check to pay for private lessons, tennis equipment, baseball equipment, travel teams, out-state tennis tournaments, and all the time and cash required to travel all summer to baseball diamonds and tennis courts around the country. I’ll also say that none of my son’s coaches every told him he had to “pick one sport”, but it certainly at times felt that way. My son liked his coaches, and wanted to please them.
DISCLAIMER II – I am in NO WAY saying multi-sport athletes are unicorns and am in NO WAY would ever try to discourage anyone from pursuing multiple interests. I just want to express the challenges involved – time, ability, money, grades, and coaches that have to be flexible for it to work.
Patrick Mahomes is truly special. Not only does he have incredible genetic gifts… he also has parents who could afford to dedicate a great deal of time and financial backing for Patrick’s unique abilities. These are luxuries not all parents can afford. Mahomes also seemingly had 100% backing of all of his coaches to spread himself across multiple sports (largely due to his abilities). Mahomes’ abilities are extremely rare. I’m going to say that having coaches who fully embrace the multisport concept are very rare as well. Far more rare than they have you to believe when they say want your son or daughter to play as many sports as possible.
POSTSCRIPT – My son and the rest of our family eventually decided to focus on one sport, the one he enjoyed the most and saw the most growth in – tennis. It worked out well, he received an academic scholarship and an athletic scholarship to play tennis this fall at a small university in Indiana. He’s thrilled, I’m proud… but I would be if he played 1 sport, 10 sports, or zero sports. I’m not sure he would have his opportunity if he had been involved in multiple sports past his sophomore year in HS. Again, this is just 1 case. He never had “D1 talent” in terms of baseball or tennis.
If a coach is truly interested in coaching multisport high school athletes, plenty of consideration and patience needs to be given to the child (and his/her parents).