The Right Move?

The sports specialization debate


Photo by Photo used with permission of Claudia Kieda

Claudia Kieda, senior volleyball player and track runner, prepares to spike the ball during a volleyball match. Kieda says she enjoys being a multi-sport athlete because “it’s just fun to be involved in something constantly because each sport has a different season.”

Alex Ketcham, Sports Editor

A single sport’s season does not last year round, so there often is enough time for a student to play another sport.

However, within the last few years, the number of LZHS students who are multi-sport athletes has trended downward, and the numbers of single-sport athletes has increased, according to Andrew Lambert, athletic director.

“The sports world has turned into an environment where we’ve marketed it to where you need to be doing it year-round if you are going to be good at it,” Lambert said. “Last year when we went to hand out our four year, three sport athletes, we had two out of 1100 athletes.”

There are many reasons for choosing to specialize in a sport, or choosing a sport to play, train, and practice for year-round, Lambert said. However, there also are many reasons why students choose to play multiple sports.

“The [reason why students might choose to specialize in a single sport] that stands out to me is the possibility of receiving some type of scholarship. The more time you dedicate to a sport, the better you are going to be, and the better chance you have of receiving a scholarship,” Lambert said.

Another reason why students might choose to play one sport over multiple is that the repetition of skills makes you better in general at the sport you are specializing in, according to Michael Byrd, girls JV tennis coach.

“They have the opportunity to get better at that particular sport by doing it over and over again. That is one of the major benefits that they take away,” Byrd said.

While the opportunity to get better at a specific sport can be tempting, by doing the same motion repeatedly, injury becomes more likely, Byrd said. He adds that by playing more sports and becoming more versatile and flexible, athletes can increase their performance in a primary sport and stay as injury-free as possible.

“I have some players of mine that are soccer players as well as tennis players,” Byrd said. “I can typically take any soccer player and make them into a great tennis player because of the footwork aspect that they have and the agility skills that they have which are incredible.”

Playing multiple sports not only can help performance on the playing field, but can also benefit people’s personal skills and qualities, said Claudia Kieda, senior multi-sport athlete.

“Sports definitely shape you into who you are. They help you grow as a person. I’ve been able to develop friendships that I’ll have for a long time,” Kieda said. “Multi-tasking and being able to have those skills helps with staying in shape and always doing something.

While playing multiple sports has its advantages, there are also disadvantages, with the most prominent being time lost due to the sport, according to Byrd.

“There is a huge time commitment with doing something over and over and over again,” according to Byrd.

Overall, the advantages to being a multi-sport athlete outweigh the disadvantages according to Lambert, Byrd, and Kieda, as the idea of being a more balanced athlete has more benefit to athletic performance and to the athlete’s health.

“I am a proponent of being a multi-sport student,” Lambert said. That will help them in life with many skills, time-management, managing expectations and such.”