Multi-sport athletes used to be all the rage. They wore Letterman’s Jackets all through the halls of high school with patches and pins from a wide range of sports. They ruled the school and the sports field.
Professional drafts feature players who were drafted by a team knowing it was unlikely that player would ever play for them because they were going to play a different sport professionally. These athletes were all-world with any ball they touched.
Youth sports has been trending a different direction though lately. Year-round sports programs are encouraging kids to stick with one sport and become great at it now. Parents buy in because the see some amount of success and dream of more. They try to create the next professional athlete.
Baseball teams are practicing indoors (or outside where lucky) in the coldest months of the year. The schedule of games last from before spring to near the end of fall. In some cases, the schedule never truly ends. In most all cases on teams like this, other sports and a lot of other activities aren’t even possible.
It has to be considered that a lot of this is driven by the adults. On one side, you have baseball complexes ready to make money and give you as much baseball as they can while earning your money. On the other side you have the parents that think that if their child gets expensive training all year that they will have great success as they grow older.
Sure, the kid probably says he loves baseball. Perhaps though, he loves the time spent out in the yard playing catch with dad. Maybe he loves showing his mom what he can do on the field so that he can talk to her about it over some ice cream after. The opportunity he gets to play outside with friends during practice may produce a smile that convinces the family that he loves baseball so much that he should play a lot more.
Maybe the kid just loves being a kid.
In college, a lot of people figure out what they want to be. In high school, some people start planning what they want to be, but that often changes. In middle school and before, most people were just wanting to have fun.
So if you ask your elementary school kid what they want to be when they grow up, the kid that is in the middle of baseball season will very likely say they want to be a professional baseball player. Sure it’s OK to let them have those dreams, but if we didn’t even know what we wanted to do when we entered college, why are we taking a 10 year old’s life plans seriously? How can some parents sign them up for year round baseball that resembles a job?
There are so many sports and activities offered to children, and I think it’s best that children get a chance to explore as many as they can or that are possible. If your son is playing baseball heavily through the fall, would you even know if they were the next Peyton Manning? If batting practice in January made using the gym for any other reason than baseball impossible, what if you just ignored the next Kobe Bryant?
Once kids start to become adults, and their bodies begin to change sizes, the all star shortstop you had playing year round competitive ball might turn into a perfect-sized first basemen. Or, he could grow into a football linebacker’s body. Failing to give him the opportunities to learn different skills seems irresponsible and unfair to the child in my opinion.
A major problem with year round baseball is burnout. After playing 150 games over a few years, your son might decide that he’s tired of baseball. At this point, it wouldn’t be a big problem if he had experience in other activities. If he was only a baseball player though, you’re going to be putting him in a rough position, starting something new at an older age than all the others.
If your son loves baseball so much that you believe you can never give him enough baseball, then you’ve taught him to do that. If he hasn’t experienced other activities, then as a parent you have limited him.
In high school baseball, there are athletes and there are baseball players. Some will fall into both categories, but the players that have played a few different sports will have a wider range of muscle abilities and will generally be more athletic than the ones that have focused on just baseball. When boys are growing to their full size in high school, the more athletic players will easily fit into their new bodies. The increased and usually superior instruction high school and college players will receive can make up for any missed time from not playing baseball in the off-season.
The gap can quickly be closed between baseball player and athlete, and in a lot of cases, the athlete has a higher ceiling and opportunity to become a better baseball player.
A major bonus here is that if both players get cut, the athlete now has a better chance to earn a spot on a different sports team.