Throughout elementary school and especially in middle school, I was always asked: “If you were only able to play one sport, what would it be?” I usually replied that I enjoyed both basketball and soccer equally. Sometimes during basketball season I would say basketball was my favorite, and during soccer season I would say the opposite. In high school, I wanted to add an activity that was less competitive and more recreational for the spring season. Although I was completely new to the sport, JV tennis proved to be a great fit. Over time, I’ve come to really enjoy it and recognize that I’ve developed a lifetime skill that I can enjoy for years to come. But the thought of playing one sport all year long never appealed to me. Playing a series of different sports throughout the year keeps me engaged and helps me develop as an athlete and as a person.
Waynflete encourages students to participate in sports during all three athletic seasons of the school year. Each season has a different character and offers different opportunities, which keeps things interesting. But there are real benefits to an individual’s athletic performance and physical development through playing a different sport each season. Students in their teens are still growing and changing — a player who was tall for his or her age at 12 or 13 might have been a great basketball player but then stopped growing while their teammates continued to grow. This might cause a student to direct his or her focus to another sport such as soccer, where height is not as important.
In addition, each sport emphasizes different types of movement and develops different muscle groups. When students play a single sport all year, there is greater risk of what researchers call “overuse” injuries, and the stakes are higher if an injury occurs. By contrast, if students rotate from one sport to another, different types of movement are required. Skills developed for one sport can contribute to another. For example, developing one’s speed and endurance in track and field would contribute to a player’s performance in soccer. The hand-eye coordination that is developed in baseball lends itself to successful tennis playing. Another positive of playing multiple sports is that a player is less likely to become stale or burned out, as they might when playing only one sport year round. By leaving a sport for several months, a player is able to rest from the demands of that sport and regain enthusiasm and motivation.
There are also some social benefits to playing multiple sports throughout the year. A player can experience different coaching styles and can get to know a different group of teammates. Sports like basketball and soccer are team-based, requiring players to work as a cohesive unit to beat a rival school. These sports have a special camaraderie and build school spirit, and are very different from say, tennis, which is more of an individual sport. With tennis, players represent their school in singles or doubles competition, and can also continue to enjoy the sport in a more relaxed and sociable way throughout life.
All in all, trying new sports can be intimidating and stressful at first. But putting yourself in an unfamiliar environment and trying something new, even if you are not successful at first, is a great learning experience. In athletics, trying new things and moving out of your comfort zone produces real physical and social benefits.