“Christmas in July” is a common line used by retail advertisers who suggest that holiday prices are available or really good products await you on store shelves right now. If you are a youth sports enthusiast, coach, athlete or parent involved in lives of young players, then it really is Christmas in July. Let me review the sports and the wonderful opportunities that exist for youth sports at this time of year.
Baseball, hockey, basketball, tennis, soccer, lacrosse, swimming and many other sports camps are in full swing with kids running all over athletic fields, splashing in pools and smiling on courts everywhere you look. Youth football will begin in a few more weeks as will Buffalo Bills Camp. Youth golfers are looking towards the PGA Championship coming to town and an opportunity to see Tiger, Rory and of course, Phil. It truly is a great time to be involved with youth sports.
What all these events offer the youth of our region is variety, and — as I have written before — variety in sports and sports experience is vital to the success of the athlete. Coaching experts agree with medical and psychological professionals nationwide that playing multiple sports is healthier physically and mentally for players age 13 and below. Focusing on one sport any sooner takes away opportunities to learn, to find their sports niche and to stay physically fit.
In this youth sports world of year-round practices and drills for one sport, experts are seeing a disturbing trend in one-sport athletes as young as 7 years old. Lack of variety in physical activity can increase sports injuries due to repetitive motion and lack in certain muscles. Playing multiple sports at a young age unlocks the potential in our youth; it provides cross-training opportunities that make athletes better at all sports versus one. And, multiple sport participation gives the greatest gift of all for both players and parents — a variety of different social interactions that help us all grow.
I could also preach to you the obvious benefits of playing multiple sports as a child: learning how people are different in their communication, a variety of perspectives on sportsmanship, leadership and character. However, I will simplify it all by saying the more sports a child plays the more fun he or she will have as an individual.
Researchers at the University of Queensland, Australia, learned from studies that there is a correlation between the breadth of sport experiences they had as a child and the level of expertise they now have in a single sport. In fact, these studies show that there is an inverse relation between the amount of multi-sport exposure time and the additional sport-specific training to reach expert status. Simply put, the athletes that played several different sports as a child were able to reach higher levels of sports status faster than those that focused on one sport in grade school.
Page 2 of 2 - As a long-time coach, these findings are not surprising to me; in fact, the results are predictable. The takeaway from this study is that there is benefit to having kids play multiple sports and that this may shorten the time and training needed to excel in a single sport in the future.
So, go ahead and let your kids play as many sports as they want. It’s Christmas in July and playing several sports will not hurt their future development. You will be giving a wonderful gift and will most likely give them time to find their true talents and their favorite sport.
Greg Kamp is a 23-year veteran of youth sports as a coach and administrator and is currently the President of Penfield Little League and sits on the board at the District level. He is the host of Youth Sports Now, a weekly radio show on WYSL-AM/FM and also runs Strategy First, his own public relations and marketing business.