Dear Athletic Support: Back when I was in high school, sports had fairly defined seasons. Football would end, then basketball would begin. When hoops were over, track started, then baseball. But sports are pretty much year-round now, both in terms of practice and play. Kids are encouraged to play multiple sports at young ages, which is good, but as they get older, it gets harder to pull off. My ninth-grade son is not going to play college sports, but he is good enough to still play multiple sports in high school, and he wants to. He did give up football to focus on basketball and baseball. At most lower classification schools with small enrollments, they rely on many of their kids playing multiple sports. But our high school is larger, so that is not the case. My son has the ability to make his high school basketball team and baseball team. But I’m afraid each coach will want him to pick one or the other, as I would imagine each coach is going to want him to devote off-seasons to one particular sport. Another fear is if both coaches opt not to keep him, thinking my son will do the other sport, and he ends up on neither team. I want my son to make his own decisions here, but do you have any advice on the matter?
Dear Supportive: This is by far the most popular question I’ve gotten over the years. Go back and check out my previous columns, “Time to switch teams?” and “Transferring to a smaller school,” for more information on the subject.
Let me start by saying this — the more sports the better! Period. Any coach who tells you otherwise doesn’t have your son’s best interest in mind. Sometimes, though, coaches don’t have to say anything, and parents/players still get the wrong message.
In other words, it’s hard for any young athlete to be away from workouts or practice and not start to feel guilty. Parents feel this same way. And that’s when the vicious cycle of worrying and wondering starts.
Don’t let that happen. Don’t worry for no reason.
I have a lot of faith in coaches. I’d be willing to bet there are not many coaches out there who will flat out tell a young athlete he cannot play multiple sports. A coach might make a few jabs here and there, trying to suggest your son might be better off if he stuck to one sport, but don’t listen to that stuff.
Deep down, any good coach wants what’s best for his athletes. And there is no substitute for game-time experience. It doesn’t matter if your son is up to bat with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, or if he’s ready to take the game-winning shot as time expires — there’s no way to simulate those types of high-pressure situations in the offseason.
A good coach understands that. I hope your son has good coaches!