We want our children to be active, but what do we do when different sports and their schedules collide?

A few weeks before the outdoor season started for my U9 Girls travel soccer team, I received the following email from a parent:

Dear Coach,

I just wanted to touch base with you because my daughter has a ton of conflicts with soccer and lacrosse this season. Lacrosse is Tuesday and Thursday from 6-7:30 and most of their soccer games are at the same times. Not sure what to do here. Just wanted to get your thoughts. I can't have her miss every lacrosse practice. Let me know what you think. Thanks!

As parents, we’ve all been there, right? How do I get my son/daughter to soccer, lacrosse, AND baseball all on the same night? If he misses baseball practice, his coach won’t play him this weekend at the tournament. If she misses her game, her coach won’t start her the next game. These are all legitimate fears for us parents.

The real question is – should they be?

When it comes to multi-sport athletes, the research and statistics are out there, and most coaches and youth sports programs are aware of them. Here are the facts (courtesy of Changing the Game Project):

1) Multi-sport athletes are 70%-90% less likely to suffer an injury than players who only play one sport.

2) Children who specialize in one sport at an early age have a far greater risk for burnout due to stress, decreased motivation, and lack of enjoyment.

3) 88% of college athletes participated in more than one sport as a child.

4) Children who commit to one sport at a young age are often the first to quit sports and have a higher rate of physical inactivity as adults.

5) Multi-sport athletes have better overall skills and are smarter, more creative players than those who specialize in one sport at a young age.

So, when is the right time to start specializing in a sport? Well, provided that your child LOVES playing the sport, Changing the Game Project suggests that between the ages of 13-15, 50% of your son/daughter’s time can be devoted to a single sport provided the other 50% is spent playing other sports or activities.

Not until age 16, should your child spend more than 80% of his/her time playing a single sport. And again, that’s only if they LOVE the game and are playing for the right reasons!

As parents, coaches, clubs, and programs, we need to do a better job of encouraging kids to play more than one sport! It will only benefit them in the long-run.

Here is my response to the parent who e-mailed me:

Dear Parent,

Our priority here needs to be to keep your daughter playing BOTH sports … for as long as she can! If your daughter is at our soccer game, she'll play. I would never "punish" her for missing a previous practice or game. I'll probably even try to get her more playing time when she is there, knowing that she won't be able to attend all our games. I can't tell you what to do, but if it was me, I would try to get her to one lacrosse practice and one soccer game each week. On three of the weeks, we have Wednesday games, so she wouldn't even have to miss lacrosse those weeks. I would also reach out to her lacrosse coach and have the same conversation that you're having with me. If we can get the coaches and parents all on the same team, it makes it so much easier on the player!

Coach Chris

Coach McConnell has 11 years of experience coaching youth soccer (ages 5-17; Rec, Travel, and High School), possesses his USSF C License, currently coaches Victor Travel and Bloomfield JV Girls Soccer, and runs WNY Soccer Assist Development Academy (wnysoccerassist.com).