Why does SSB support athletes playing multiple sports?

At Split Second, we are pumped when we find young athletes who love basketball as much as we do and want to focus on it and push themselves to improve. We have different pathways (Skills Training camps, Leagues, Cobra teams, PEAK training) to accommodate players of various skill and commitment levels…from beginners right up to the most dedicated and serious high school seniors.

However, we also support our young athletes playing other sports because it is the RIGHT thing for them and has numerous long term benefits. 

Far too many clubs/teams/organizations either put rules in place to stop athletes from playing multiple sports, or strongly discourage kids who do so by reducing their playing time and/or giving them diminished roles and status on the team. 

If you can put yourself in the club director’s position, it’s easy to see why. Of course it’s easier for the coach to have every player at every practice and game. In the short term, it will likely mean more success for the club in terms of immediate wins. If you are thinking short term and only about winning now (and that’s also how you are marketing your club), obviously this is an appealing stance to take.

However, numerous studies have shown that, for any late-developing sport like basketball, early specialization has more negatives than positives . (Early developing sports like gymnastics are a different story) It’s time that sports organizations start putting our kids interest first, not their own.

What are the benefits of multi-sport training?

It takes thousands of hours, millions of repetitions, years of practice for players to reach the peak of their potential. While it’s tempting to get those reps as early in life as possible, it’s far more important to make sure that players continue to build a love the game and develop a greater desire to train as they age. Players can train with much more intensity, focus and purpose in their late teens than in their early teens…but only if they have a burning desire to do so.

Build a burning desire

Don’t get me wrong. Players need to build a solid foundation with good coaching and training from a relatively early age or they will be too far behind to compete. However far too often, the small head start that players get by focusing exclusively on one sport comes at the expense of building the truly burning desire later in life that all top performers have. Even worse, many of these young athletes completely burn out and leave the sport before they ever get a chance to see what they can really do. Supporting athletes to play other sports in addition to their basketball training helps avoid burnout and keep desire building.

Avoid injuries

A study put together by the NBA noted that athletes with strong multi-sport backgrounds tend to have fewer injuries than those who only played basketball growing up. With the growing volume of training young athletes participate in these days, getting training and conditioning from other sports is a good way to avoid overuse injuries.

Learn new movement patterns

Elite basketball players know how to use their bodies well. They have fantastic balance, can shift their centre of mass to gain and advantage. They can accelerate, decelerate and change directions at an elite level. Playing different sports is a great way for young athletes to learn how to use their bodies in new ways and develop greater, all round athleticism.

The benefits are clear

Supporting multi-sport choices in young athletes is vital. In all the sports your child plays, ensure you work with organizations that put your child and their personal development first.

Most of all however, take your cues from your player. As an athlete develops, the time will come to focus and dedicate more time to training. There is a wide range of when (if ever) this happens, but generally it isn’t until junior level in high school. Listen to what your child says and do your best to be a supportive force in their sporting career.

In the meantime, cheer for every at bat, power play, successful try, block at the net and penalty kick. A love of sport is our end goal for every player. But forgive us for wanting that sport to be basketball…

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