Playing Multiple Sports
It seems than nearly all sports nowadays can be played year round. Here in Southern California, there is little barrier to playing baseball the entire calendar year and recent trends have shown a growing number of parents and athletes choosing to do so. While it is true that the extra months spent practicing and playing can speed development, it remains tremendously important that athletes engage in multiple sports.
BENEFITS OF YEAR-ROUND BASEBALL:
- Quantity of practice (reps)
- Continued development
DRAWBACKS TO YEAR-ROUND BASEBALL:
- Mental fatigue
- Physical fatigue
- Loss of passion/enjoyment
With regards to the sport of baseball, there are two significant negatives associated with playing year round. First is a lack of physical rest. Baseball is unique in that a majority of injuries are related to the overuse of the throwing arm. An extended break gives any inflamed areas or tiny tears (micro traumas) time to heal before they become serious problems. Anti-inflammatories, strengthening exercises and therapy can useful, but are largely ineffective if the inflaming action is still occurring. A period of consistent rest is what every body needs.
The second, less noticeable, effect of playing year-round baseball, is a loss of passion for the sport. This topic has been discussed in Life Lessons titled BURNOUT and ENERGY. Over the years, I’ve been well exposed to the growing trend of tournament baseball and its effect on young baseball players. Earlier this year, I was involved with a three-day tournament. After five games over three days, I was physically and mentally spent and I was only coaching! I began to ask myself, “How can we expect these young athletes to maintain the desired intensity and energy, when they are spending so much time on the field?”
My solution to the year-round debate is a balance of the pros and cons. Allow (encourage, in fact) athletes to play multiple sports. It helps to develop athleticism and competitive drive on the playing field, as well as character and poise off of the field. At the same time, find appropriate opportunities to practice the off-season sport. That may mean playing in a baseball Winter League during the non-baseball months. In such a case, treat the Winter League as just that – an OFF season activity. Competition should be fun-filled, time commitments shorter, and mental/physical stress lighter. Doing this accomplishes the desired goal: Allow an athlete to focus on an in-season sport while still participating in the off-season baseball activities.
- How many sports do you play? What are they?
- Playing sports does not have to mean being on an organized team. What do you play at school, or in the neighborhood, that don’t involve wearing a uniform?
- Play Challenge: Can you organize a game in your neighborhood? This can be a sidewalk game with chalk, a dice game, a board game, or involve a ball. Invite a friend over to play!
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