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Choosing to specialize

Research favors multiple sports over specializing

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Anyone trying to convince senior Dru Kuxhausen, the school’s all-time scoring leader, that he was too focused on basketball for the past four years, probably isn’t going to get very far.

Research from the past few years, however, would suggest that athletes might be better served if they participate in multiple sports rather than an individual sport.

Each year many high school athletes have become more known to specialize in one sport rather than compete in multiple.

Kuxhausen is one example of a specialized athlete.

“After my freshman year I decided to pick basketball or football to continue doing throughout high school,” Kuxhausen said. “I had always liked basketball a little more than football so I decided to pick basketball and focus on that.”

Kuxhausen, however, has set goals beyond high school.

“My goal has always been to play college basketball at the next level. I thought by only playing one sport and focusing on that would be my best chance to reach my goal,” Kuxhausen said.

Senior Ian Galindo, a swimmer, also specializes in one sport.

“Specializing gave me more time to focus on swimming,” Galindo said. “With not doing any other sports I was able to train year round and focus on the one sport I truly love.”

Although more students appear to be specializing, there are still some students who choose to be occupied with all three sports.

Junior Noah Bruner has chosen to participate in multiple high school sports.

“I choose to participate in multiple sports because competing is something I love to do,” Bruner said. “It keeps me busy and involved in something at all times.”

Bruner also has other motivations to participate in several sports.

“It’s more beneficial to participate in multiple sports because for me, I have to stay on top of my grades and schoolwork,” Bruner said. “Participating in multiple sports also gives you relationships with your teammates you’ll never forget.”

Bruner is not the only one with the same view on participating in multiple sports.

Sophomore Kieyerah Twombly has participated in three sports since freshman year.

“I participate in multiple sports because I love to be with my friends and teammates and it pushes me to have good grades all year,” Twombly said. “I think it’s beneficial because you can take hand-eye coordination away from softball and use it in basketball.”

Activities Director Dave Hoxworth would rather see kids participate in multiple sports and/or activities while in high school.

“Well, I think the misconception is that people who participate in one sport think that they’d be making a name in just that one sport,” Hoxworth said.

Focusing on a single sport would seem to benefit athletes towards focusing and training all year around for that one activity.

Hoxworth, however, challenges the claim that specializing is the most beneficial.

“The pro is usually for a single sport athlete where they would obviously work on their skills in just that one sport,” Hoxworth said. “Take golf for example, the more time you have to commit to that, you’re just committing to one thing.  I believe that there are way more benefits to being a multi-sport athlete that go along with it.”

Most research would validate Hoxworth’s assertion.

“The NFHS (National Federation of High School Sports) released a story on Nov. 3 that found ‘athletes who specialized in one sport were twice as likely to report previously sustaining a lower-extremity injury than athletes who did not specialize,’” Head Track Coach Shelby Aaberg said.

“‘In addition, specialized athletes sustained 60 percent more new lower extremity injuries during the study than athletes who did not specialize.’”

Aaberg, however, understands athletes have the right to choose their own path.

“A student has to do what is right for his or her situation, but the cons to specialization far outweigh the pros,” Aaberg said. “Cons would include injury risk, stagnation in motor patterns due to repetitive drills, and the psychological letdown of not being challenged in new ways.”

Boys’ head soccer coach Nate Rock said there are circumstances where specialization might be needed.

“In situations where an athlete has the opportunity to play high level college athletics (D-1). I think specialization can help in those rare situations,” Rock said. “Coaches, myself included, have at times promoted specialization in an attempt to create more competitive programs, but in reality, the promotion of the multiple sport athlete might be more valuable to the student athlete.”

Research suggests that injuries are not the only downside to specializing.

Edward M. Wojtys states in his article, “Sports Specialization vs. Diversification, “Unfortunately, according to the article by Weigand, nearly 17% of these accomplished college athletes are depressed! These

results are very similar to those reported by Yang, with 21% of the 257 student athletes reporting symptoms of depression.”

Hoxworth is understanding of the dilemma kids face regarding becoming a multi-sport athlete.

“I just think that kids miss it when they’re not participating. We’re also in a challenging decade with that, because kids have jobs, they have things they need to pay for such as cell phones. And they’re dropping some of those things too because of time commitments too, so I don’t think it’s as easy for kids to be multi anymore because it’s more requirement too,” Hoxworth said.

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Choosing to specialize