As much as we might want our kids to get scholarships and become pro athletes, the reality is that most youth athletes won’t play sports professionally, or even in college.
Ultimately, sports are about learning and growth. And exposure to a variety of sports is beneficial for kids both physically and mentally.
Physically speaking, exposure to all different types of movement and movement patterns creates a broader foundation for future activities.
Our brains start to create pathways around the movements we do the most. This is true for people of all ages. In kids, especially those under 10, the brain is very “flexible” and open to creating all kinds of pathways. Exposure to different kinds of movement encourages development of more diverse motor pathways.
Drawing from a variety of sports helps youth athletes learn to:
- move in all different planes
- speed up and slow down safely and efficiently
- balance and shift weight
- develop hand-eye and full body coordination
- Improve proprioception and body awareness
These skill sets from various sports will carry over as kids get older and begin to “specialize” in specific sports. They should also be more able to learn new and more advanced skills in their specific sport(s) of choice.
As we discussed in our Building Foundations post, we can think of sport skills as a pyramid with foundational movement patterns as the base, foundational strength above that, general sports skills next, and sport-specific skills at the tippy top. Here we’re talking about the general sports skills layer, which applies across a wide range of sports.
These skills can be developed in conjunction with the foundational strength and sport-specific skills that “sandwich” general skills on the pyramid. They generally involve moving in various planes and lots of repetition.
Some examples of this include play-specific footwork drills in football or situation-specific plays and drills in baseball. In both of these cases, the athlete is building muscle memory, situational awareness, and agility. The idea is that, when presented with these situations in the course of actual gameplay, the athlete’s “instincts” will kick in. Those “instincts” are the skills that are practiced over and over.
Another factor is the carryover of these skills from one sport to another. For example, learning quick direction changes or improving speed for football will carry over to the basketball court as well.
Likewise, increasing exposure to a variety of sports will result in kids developing more skills that are more applicable across the board. Mixing a more cardio-intensive sport – like basketball or soccer – with a less cardio-intensive sport – like volleyball or softball – leads to a more adaptable and resilient athlete.
Introducing variety in sports is also mentally healthy for youth athletes. It creates exposure to different groups of athletes, different coaches, and different physical environments.
Different sports challenge our brains in different ways. Logistically, we have to learn to adapt to different rulesets, strategies of gameplay, and scoring. Socially, we learn to work with different groups of people, leadership, and personalities.
Variety in sports encourages both mental and physical adaptability and resilience. It gives kids a chance to figure out what they like and what they’re good at. It also gives them a chance to learn what they’re not so good at, and how to handle those kinds of situations.
VARIETY = SUCCESS
Ultimately, variety creates flexibility; and a more “flexible” brain is more resilient and adaptable to changing environments both inside and outside the world of sports.
Everyone wants their kids to be happy and successful. But it’s not always clear how best to help them. And when it comes to the ultra-competitive world of sports, things can get a little… wild.
We certainly don’t have all the answers when it comes to raising kids… but we can definitely help with the sports part!
Want to add some variety to your kid’s training? Or just have questions in general about youth athletes? We’re here for it. You can set up a free 15-min coaching call by clicking the “Free Intro” button on this page, or shooting us an email at [email protected] with “Youth Sports” in the subject line.