Should Athletes Specialize or Play Multiple Sports?

  1 Nate Torvik | October 01st, 2018 | Club Volleyball, Training

Every year, more and more student athletes give up more sports to specialize in one particular sport with the goal and the dream of playing in college and/or beyond. Gone are the days of backyard volleyball, cul de sac basketball, finding an empty baseball field and playing a pick up game, and more. In an age where everything moves faster, the slowness with which young people used to enjoy their days outside just doesn’t exist. So, should athletes give up all other sports in order to specialize in one? Should they hone their skills for a primary sport just to focus on getting a scholarship?

There are actually a lot more positives than negatives when it comes to playing multiple sports vs. specializing in one. Let’s take a look at the potential reasons why athletes and parents see when they specialize, for better or for worse:

  • College scholarships: “If I don’t play one sport year round, I won’t get a college scholarship.” This is the mindset of most players and parents that pervade most sports. Is it accurate though? Not often.
  • Fewer multi-sport opportunities: With so many clubs, groups, and organizations, there just aren’t opportunities for players to go out and play a sport for fun anymore. It’s a nature of the society in which we live, to the detrimental of these athletes.
  • Drive to be the best: There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be the best at a sport, but sometimes it can be detrimental to development. If you don’t play a sport for 12 months in a row, you might fall behind. But why can’t you play multiple sports at the same time?

However, what are some of the possible benefits to playing multiple sports that athletes should consider before they drop another sport?

  • Injury prevention: When you play one sport, you put your body through the same motions over, and over, and over, and over…you get the idea. Over time, your body can begin to break down because of the specific motions that you’ve made time and again without training any other parts of your body. In volleyball players, this causes a lot of back, knee, and shoulder injuries.
  • Reduce burnout: More and more, we’re watching players with bright, bright futures start to burn themselves out. Practice multiple days per week, workouts constantly, tournaments, competitions, recruiting, team bonding, and the list goes on…When do these athletes have time to actually enjoy themselves? Breaking up the monotony with another sport can frequently help.
  • College scholarships: We all know colleges have multiple sports, right? If you are an athlete who loves participating in multiple sports, some colleges will work with you to be able to participate is whatever you want! Track in the spring, volleyball in the fall, whatever your passion might be. It could lead to some fantastic opportunities.
  • College scholarships: Many players and parents feel that if they don’t play the same sport all year long, they will miss out on college opportunities. What if a college doesn’t think I’m committed to the sport? What if I miss a day at a tournament and they are there recruiting?

Every day, it feels like another club or organization that open up offering their products and services to kids. They push their product on these players, not for the players’ benefit, but to make money. You could call it the “Wal-Mart” effect, where there’s an offering for everyone who is willing to pay to play. There are plenty of people out there ready to take advantage of these players and parents, promising them to world and not being able to deliver.

It always strikes me to hear a parent (as recently as this last week) say “Well, club coaches say they want kids to play multiple sports, but they don’t mean it…” And why don’t they mean it? Selfish, personal benefit can frequently be the answer to that question. Monetary benefit could be another answer.

According to the NCAA for 2018, the estimated percentage of volleyball athletes that go on to play in the NCAA is 3.9%. According to, 5.8% of high school volleyball players will play some form of college volleyball. That’s about 1 in 17 athletes.

Play multiple sports. Play as many sports as you can find as often as you can find them, and enjoy it. If you as an athlete decide that you no longer want to play multiple sports, that’s a decision you can make. However, don’t let an external influence force you to go in a direction that you don’t want.

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My daughter migrated from competitive cheerleading to volleyball when she literally outgrew cheer. While I would like for her to have been able to do multiple activities, time and cost play a major factor in her being a 1 sport girl. There is no break between club and varsity seasons in volleyball. Tryouts for club were 1 week after the championships for High School and High School Practice starts 3 weeks after USAV.

I know a few girls that play volleyball and basketball, but none of them have the time for club. Unfortunately, if your daughter wants to be in the 3.9% that play in college, she HAS to play club.

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