Can you be a multi-sport athlete in college?
Fall football. Winter basketball. Spring baseball. Many college athletes were multi-sport athletes in high school; transitioning from sport to sport with the seasons of the year. The best high school athletes can excel in two or three sports. Is it the same in college?
Let me tell you about one of the three multi-sport athletes I coached in 10 years of college coaching. Becca was an athlete if ever there was one. She was fast and she was coordinated. I recruited her to play soccer. Her freshmen year she came in blazing. She set a school record with 27 goals. Some of her softball friends encouraged her to play softball. Next thing I know, she is asking me if she can. I was a young coach and gave in.
Becca was a good softball player, but never great. Becca was a great soccer player who became a good soccer player. She didn’t have the spring seasons to develop her tactical and technical abilities for soccer. She didn’t have the spring to bond with her teammates. Over the next 3 years, Becca scored a combined total of 30 goals. No doubt she had a successful career, but she was never great again. She certainly never gave herself a chance to become amazing!
Oh, the other two multi-sport athletes I coached. They both played two sports for four years. Both enjoyed the experience. Neither excelled or lived up to their potential.
Should you pick one sport to pursue in college?
It’s time to pick a sport. There are few college coaches who are going to share you with another coach. While each collegiate sport has a traditional season, each requires year round training. The coach wants your best efforts, year round.
If you have been given an athletic scholarship, the coach has full discretion over whether or not you will be allowed to participate on another team. The coach is paying for your best efforts.
No coach ever wants to see an athlete injured. But they really don’t want to see you injured playing for someone else. Many coaches will choose to avoid the risk inherent in allowing you to play a second sport. A coach needs you in top playing condition when the season starts.
Finally, the coach’s job is riding on the success of the team. A coach’s livelihood is based on having a team full of players who will give 100 percent.
Are there exceptions?
There are exceptions, but they are rare. And the exceptions are the athletes that are truly great at two sports. The only reason a coach will share in this instance is that the talent of the individual is too much to pass up. The great athletes can give 50 percent of their time and still be contributing more than everybody else.
With this kind of “game changer” it is not unheard of for coaches of two programs to team up and offer this player a scholarship for both programs. But this is rare, incredibly rare.
“It’s awful difficult in this day and age (to play two sports) with year-round conditioning that everyone’s got to do,” said Nebraska football recruiting coordinator Ross Els. “Certainly if you get a talented guy that is going to play at a great level in the other sport, then that’s fine. If he’s just going to be another player, then he probably needs to pick one or the other.”
Are you the exception, should you be a multi-sport athlete in college?
Even if you find an opportunity to play two sports in college, I would strongly encourage you to focus on one sport. Here are my reasons based upon my experience of coaching four dual sport athletes:
- Academically it is very challenging to do well. You are always “in season.” One sport athletes will often save their more difficult classes for the semester in which they are out of season.
- The physical wear and tear on your body is tremendous. As a freshman, you may breeze through, but after three and four years your body will break down. You will end up playing injured or not fully recovered. And in essence you will not excel at either sport the way you could if you were committed to one sport.
- There is no time to develop your skills in one sport and develop excellence over the course of your college career. You may be good, but not what you could have been.
My advice, don’t try to be a multi-sport athlete.
Pick a sport. Make a commitment to excellence. Be the best you can be.
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