Joe Breen, Director of Baseball Operations, RBI Baseball Academy
The growing epidemic of “sports specialization” has made me completely sick to my stomach. The cut throat world of youth sports have pressured many kids and parents into making a decision on whether they should give up sports that they “are not that great at” or “have the best chance to succeed.” As someone who played 3 sports all the way through high school (football, basketball, baseball), I have a lot of feelings on this subject so limiting it to 3 will be tough but here are some of my initial thoughts on this subject.
1. It’s the parents, not the child making the decision. In the parent’s opinion, this is the sport that the child has the most ability at regardless of whether the child has any passion to play and/or to become better. This results in lack of interest or desire to improve down the road especially if the decision is made too early. Many parents did not achieve the athletic prowess that they wanted in their youth and now they are forcing their children to live their own dreams and not that of their child’s.
2. Loss of competitive edge. I’ve seen players who quit football, soccer, basketball, and hockey so they can “concentrate” on one specific sport. There is no substitute for intense competition. I know when I’m on the mound in the bottom of the 7th with one out to go to win the game, I’m not thinking back to an indoor bullpen I threw in mid-January. I’m thinking back to the defensive stop I had to make with 3 seconds left to go in the basketball game to prevent the other team from scoring the winning points. The “competitive edge” is something that all great athletes need to have and is only attained through experiencing competition in various scenarios.
3. Loss/lack of total athletic development. Imagine if Rajon Rondo had a great glove or Jerod Mayo could square up a baseball? The movements repeated in sports like basketball and football help a developing athlete become quicker, more explosive, more agile, and possess the ability to change directions on a dime. These are all qualities of some of the most elite baseball players who play at the highest of levels. If you are a developing athlete and you never experience any of these types of movements, you will never possess the athletic ability needed to take your baseball skills to the next level.
While I am a true believer in playing a different sport in every season, I also promote training for your upcoming sport in the off-season. Young athlete’s schedules should not be overbooked with all sorts of practices/games/training activities but I believe there is a sensible way of fully committing to one sport each season as well as some form of off-season skill training. I see lots of players being fully committed to 1+ teams in 2+ sports PER SEASON!!! That to me is not only overstressing the athlete but it doesn’t allow the player enough time to perfect their craft. For example, there are a few kids I work with personally who are playing baseball for their town as well as spring soccer and or lacrosse. So that means they go to 1-2 baseball practices, 1-3 baseball games, 1-2 private baseball lessons, 1-2 soccer/lacrosse practices, and 2-3 soccer/lacrosse games ALL IN ONE WEEK!
To me, the spring is meant for your 1 Spring Sport! You should be fully committed to developing your skills in that sport. When I go watch high school games, I still see 3-5 errors or misplayed balls in the field per game. Is this because they aren’t good players OR is it becasue they don’t or didn’t spend enough time taking groundballs/flyballs on a daily basis during their developmental years. While it is tough to scientifically back that answer up due to lack of research, I think you get my point.
I could go on all day long about this topic but hopefully those of you reading understand what I’m trying to say. If anyone has any specific questions, I would love to talk or exchange emails. In the age of social media, you can reach me in any number of ways including:
Phone: 508-543-9595 x301, Email: JBreen@rbiacademy.com, Facebook: Joe Breen (RBI) or Twitter @JoeBreenRBI
I look forward to our discussion!