We conclude our series on the life of the multiple-sport athlete by continuing the discussion with the athletes. Leavenworth High’s Arik Parker, Alexis Cole and Samantha Murphy, Lansing High’s Eliott Wilk and Kennedy Farris and Lansing resident and Christ Prep student Aaron Martin talk about playing many sports.
Who should specialize in one sport? Star players? Players looking for scholarships?
Cole: “I believe that it depends on the person if you specialize in one sport. I don't think that just because you're amazing at a sport means that's all that you do. If you want to, then do it. If you want to do more than one, then do it. But I do believe that there is a point where you need to start to prioritize a certain sport. If you're wanting to play in college and get a scholarship you need to start focusing on the one you want to move on with. That doesn't mean you need to drop the other sport(s). It just means you need to start focusing on one more than the rest.”
Farris: “I don't think that anybody should specialize in one specific sport until you get to high school at the earliest. I played three sports my freshman and sophomore year and all of my years previous to high school. And I played three competitive sports at one time. And I plan on playing two or three sports the next two years of my high school career (even though I have already committed to playing volleyball in college). And along with that I will continue to play beach volleyball in the summer. A lot of the times the ‘star players’ are the athletes that play multiple sports. If you need to take the next step and want colleges to look at you I can see where you would want to specialize in one sport but I wouldn't even think about that until high school.”
Martin: “I think professional players only need to focus on their main sport. But at the high school level, playing different sports will ultimately help you in your main sport.”
Murphy: “I don’t think anyone should specialize in one sport. If you have a star player, and they want to do another sport on top of their ‘golden game’ then there is no stopping them. They will be free to do that. If students want scholarships, they should play the field, literally, see which sport they think they could grow with the most and if they play two or three, well that’s two to three different scholarships they could receive. There are students that do nothing, they just go to school then go home and play X-box, granted they might do competitive video gaming, and if they do then good for them. Also, if you do multiple sports, then there is more chances of winning.”
Parker: “The only people who should choose to specialize in one sport are those who excelled in their sport at a young age and did all the traveling teams and showed real talent, or ones with college scholarships on the line and can’t risk injury from another sport.”
Wilk: “I think the only people that should focus on one sport should be the people that have officially committed to a college for that particular sport and that is the only sport they are focusing on and will play in college, but up until then I think people should have fun experimenting and play as many sports as they want.”
Do you ever wish you could go back and just play one sport?
Cole: “I would never want to go back and just play one sport. I feel like that would have been so boring. And letting your kid experience different types of sports is what you should do. The kids need to be the one that make the decision on what they love or what they want to play, not the parent forcing their kid down a path they weren't meant to be on.”
Farris: “I don't wish that I would've played just one sport. I am the type of person that gets bored doing the same thing over and over again. Not saying that I don't love playing volleyball because I do but if I would've just been playing volleyball since I was 8 years old to the day I am 21-22 or however old, I think I may get tired of it and wonder what it was like if I would've played other sports.”
Martin: “No, I like it the way it is now and wouldn't want to change it.”
Murphy: “I loved my high school career as it was. I loved doing all the sports I did. I met so many brilliant people, and grew so close with my teams. But with who I am I was bound to love doing as much as I could, being very active.”
Parker: “There were times when I wished I only focused on and played one sport, but looking back I’m glad I didn’t because now I’m going to college for a sport I hadn’t planned on when I was entering high school.”
Wilk: “I like it the way it is right now. If I could go back I would still participate in all the sports I did as a kid and still play three sports in high school.”
Burnout. Is it real? What do you think causes burnout?
Cole: “Burnout is definitely real from my experience. In middle school, I came to a point in soccer that I needed just one season off. One season to help me reboot myself. Yeah it was only a futsal season, but I had loved the sport, and taking that season off I realized the burnout didn't matter and my passion for the sport overcame it. You can't really avoid burnout. It comes and goes. When you're running your body so much it begins to just get worn down and you're just physically tired.”
Farris: “I think burnout is real for some people. I think bad coaches can for sure cause burnout. Not having breaks hasn't ever caused me to be burned out so I don't think that causes it. If you get burned out because you lose then you're a sore loser. If you want to win you have to learn how to lose. I think playing multiple sports can help (avoid) burnout.”
Martin: “Yes. I see many players stop playing sports because they're always in season for some kind of sport. My junior high team had six players in my class. Now I'm the only one that still plays basketball. I think the biggest reason athletes cut down on some of their sports is most of them are tired of all the sports and no breaks.”
Murphy: “People use this term (burnout) when they want to give up and quit, which is the easiest thing someone can do, and trust me if you ever give up, or quit at any point you will regret it. I don’t think burnouts are real. I guess the only time I’ll believe someone has had a burnout is when there is an injury involved. That is a true burnout, because you gave it all you had or just ran into some bad luck, and you honestly can’t go on anymore.”
Parker: “Burnout is definitely real. It can be caused by many different things such as losing, never having free time, and most likely not having fun. To avoid burnout, I would say only focus on the sports that make you happy and allow you to be successful.”
Wilk: “Yes, burnout is real. I think it is caused by overworking oneself and not taking enough breaks, whether mental or physical. Losing also factors in because over time you just get tired of losing and in reality, it can sometimes kill your love for that sport. But for me, having supportive parents who are always there 100 percent of the time to ground me and have your back whenever I need that extra push or vote of confidence is key.”
If you could give advice to younger kids thinking of playing multiple sports, what would you most want to tell them?
Cole: “I say do it. Go ahead and explore all the options you want. Sports are great for the mind and the body. You create so many connections and better yourself in many different areas. Experience all that you can and just have fun. And also don't be too hard on yourself. It's about having fun. Progress is important, but so is your well-being.”
Farris: “I would tell them to play as many sports as possible for as long as they can. It really helps you in the long run to be an overall better athlete. Don't listen to the people that tell you to play one sport and one sport only. You have potential to be a crazy athlete and if you’re putting all your time in one sport you aren't using yourself to your full potential. And I don't think you truly know what sport you love until you get older. So, play as many sports as possible.”
Martin: “Be prepared to miss out on things. There will be sometimes when you'll be busy every night and won't be able to hang out with friends, or even have dinner with your family.”
Murphy: “Do not give up ever. You never want to give up. If you want to take on that big responsibility of five sports, go for it. Just make sure you truly think about it, and know that is what you really want to do before making a commitment to a team. You do whatever you need to do to have a successful career.”
Parker: “Advice I would give to younger kids thinking of playing multiple sports is enjoy it while you can, school and grades always come first so learn time management, and like coach Sachen always tells his kids and athletes, ‘Play hard and have fun.’”
Wilk: “I would tell the young kids to have fun playing as many sports as they want and to experiment with as many individual or team sports as they are able to. The purpose is to have fun while it lasts. Just work hard at everything thing they do and do everything to the best of their abilities. Also, don't participate in a sport just because their parents want them to do it because it's something they are passionate about and where they feel good about themselves while playing. I've been on many teams where it is obvious that some players have no desire or urgency to practice, let alone show up to compete, making it seem like they're not doing it for themselves but because they have to.”