Do you dream of your child playing in the big leagues some day? Then make sure he or she is a multi-sport athlete during childhood.
A USA Today story about the US Women’s National Soccer Team reveals that the players on the 2015 World Cup-winning team were all multi-sport athletes throughout their youth.
The success of multi-sport athletes is a theme we have often profiled at Active for Life, in sports ranging from hockey to college football, and with athletes ranging from Steve Nash to Canadian Olympians Rhian Wilkinson and Lizanne Murphy.
According to the article in USA Today, the players on the US national team didn’t specialize early in soccer. Collectively, they played 14 different sports while growing up. One player was involved in as many as 8 different sports and physical activities through her childhood.
Incredibly, star forward Abby Wambach (pictured above with her teammates, from left to right, Alex Morgan, Lauren Holiday, Wambach, and Whitney Engen) didn’t specialize in soccer until university. In high school, she was a star basketball player, and she was good enough to have played collegiate basketball, but she chose soccer instead.
How is this possible? How can a kid get away with specializing so late in life, and still reach the top of a sport?
For starters, being a multi-sport athlete means that you learn a larger range of skills and develop broader athleticism. In avoiding early specialization, you also stand a better chance of avoiding physical, mental, and emotional burnout.
But another key factor is maturation. To compete at the top of a sport, you need many physical, mental, and emotional attributes that may not emerge until age 16, 17, 18, or even later. Every child reaches maturity at different times.
This is precisely why all of our children deserve good coaching right up to the end of high school age, whether they are following a competitive pathway or simply playing recreationally.
You never know who has the potential to emerge as a superstar. Athletes such as Abby Wambach — one of the greatest players in the history of women’s soccer — are living proof.