Friday, March 30, 2018

Multi-Sport Approach

I really enjoyed reading an article from the Ottawa Citizen last week featuring Dr. Chris Raynor about the importance of movement. As a physical education teacher, I see it all the time. I get to teach good soccer players or good hockey players but unfortunately, not always great movers. Some students are great with their feet or others are great on the ice but they have a hard time playing other sports or lack the core muscles to push and pull objects. In the last few years, the effect of early sport specialization has become more and more apparent in our young athletes.

A few years ago, I read a really great article about Jordan Spieth, a multi-sport athlete, and Tiger Woods, a prime example of an early sport specialization athlete. After reading this article, I decided to make a list of famous multi-sport athletes. The list includes historical sporting figures such as Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan and others. Even The Great One, thinks ’’it's really important for kids to play other sports - whether it's indoor lacrosse or soccer or baseball. I think what that does is two things. One, each sport helps the other sport. And then I think taking time off in the off-season (...) really rejuvenates kids ’’. If It’s good enough for Wayne Gretzky, why can’t it be enough proof that the multi-sport approach works? Well, there are many answers to that question. However, the one reason that I’ve heard the most is that parents in Ottawa get told that their child won’t make the top team if they don’t participate in the winter soccer program or the summer hockey season. Of course parents aren’t made out of money so they might not have the means to sign up for a second sport.

The problem when we have athletes specializing in one sport for 10-12 months a year is that they won’t be developing their physical literacy to their fullest potential. Take a look at the diagram below. I’m not sure there’s a single sport that currently exists that will help develop the ABCs of movement, the fundamental movement skills AND the basic human movements. That’s why athletes need to play multiple sports. Also, as I’ve previously stated in another blog post on Human 2.0’s website, children also need free time to explore and play in order to develop their physical literacy.

All of that being said, there are some great things being done in the community. For example, in Cochrane, children can now sign up for a multi-sport league. Children get to experience 10 different sports in 10 months. If you’re interested, this video explains further. Also, I’ve recently participated in a round table discussion with True Sport. They are planning on creating a similar multi-sport league in Ottawa for young children. These children will be 6 and 7 years old. The different sports will be taught by community coaches and instructors. Once they’ve tried a dozen sports through the True Sport Multi-Sport Program, they can then choose 2-3 of them that they really enjoyed. If children play multiple sports, participate in a wide variety of physical activities during P.E. and play freely outside they will become great movers and subsequently, healthier. In the end, having healthy children is what all parents, teachers, coaches and trainers want.

Other Resources:

Active for Life - The Multi-Sport Advantage

Changing the Game Project - Is it Wise to Specialize?

Sport for Life - Long-Term Athlete Development Stages

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