Friday, September 9, 2022

High school sports: Process or product?

When I grew up, there were very, very few single-sport athletes in high-school.

Most of the athletes seamlessly shifted from their fall-sport to their winter-sport to their spring-sport. This was a process-oriented approach. If there was a "product" it was to graduate a student-athlete well prepared to tackle adult life.

The modern trend seems to be for coaches to pressure the best athletes to commit to a single sport. The beefy lineman is in a weight program year round and is discouraged from playing other sports where he might sprain an ankle or (gasp) decide he likes it better and abandon football. In this case, the "product" is state championships and, perhaps, athletic scholarships at Universities.

I am clearly biased in favor of the athlete who samples many different sports during their high school years. They might gain a sense of egalitarianism and stamina in cross-country in the fall, grit and toughness in wrestling in the winter and a chance to flirt with the girls in track. Or he might learn make-a-plan/execute-a-plan in football, fluid exploitation of opportunities in basketball during the winter and how to swing a weapon in baseball.

Specialization, especially at a young age, is for insects.

What do you guys think?


  1. I've come around to the point of view the English guys had in Chariots of Fire - professional sports should not exist. The only valid purpose for sports is the development of the athlete - primarily the character of the athlete.

  2. I agree. Youth is when you view as much of the world as you can. Adulthood is when you focus. --ken

  3. I coached girls soccer for 8 yrs ages 11-18 in a small town. Tryouts consisted of if you show up you make the team. None of them had the ability to be a D1 player in college or even D2 for that matter. In the fall they played travel soccer and most ran cross country. In the spring they played soccer for the school. Summers off. They trained hard and were quite successful playing for their school as well as when in travel soccer allowing them to compete with the girls from the city. Yes they may have not been able to play a different sport but hopefully the lessons they learned about hard work, persistence, commitment and sacrifice will stay with them throughout their lives.

  4. There's money to be made in amateur sports....thus the push for specializing. Winning is now much more important than it used to be.

  5. I see the same specialization... when I visit with my sister in North VA. Was like that in NY, too. You have some of that in EastTN, but more of the multiple sport athletes than those that specify. If I had to guess I would say that is cultural.
    From where I sit, it very much seems to be a 'drive' thing pushed by the parents. Sam class of people insist everyone MUST go to college (or they aren't a success - the pedigree is the hoal, not actual jobskills or knowledge). I am not having luck finding the words to describe the forces involved, but I do see an alignment similar to our political splits. I dare say its an extension of the "I know better than you" mentality, but the alignment with our political divide is too uncanny, I believe it is the same psychology driving both.

  6. I think the size of the school makes a difference.

    Locally, Bath and Fowler are small schools where virtually every capable man-jack is pressed into athletics. The deal is that they will have to terminate the football program (gasp!) if just a handful of guys decide to sit out. Then all their buddies will be left out in the cold. The appeal is almost patriotic in it for your buds and for future generations.

    Larger schools...heck, they have plenty of cannon-fodder. Let the dummies get the concussions.

    Once sucked into the first fall-sport, the other sports are easier to recruit for.

  7. Having options is the key to a successful life. As one door closes another is standing open. Not a bad mode of living to adopt. Roger

  8. I figured out I liked different food by trying it out. Same with sports. I played all but soccer. Bad coaching in junior high when it was being introduced in the US turned me off. I realized I didn't like football in 9th grade. I wasn't given the opportunity to play the position I was suited for because the school board president's son played that position. Small town, 1A scruel. I designed an off-season regimen for basketball in high school. We worked it during football season and we were in good shape by the time b-ball fired off. Ran track, played base ball. Every sport demanded a different skill set and I've been on the road to cross training in multiple disciplines ever since. Mental and physical.

    Statistically, the amount of people payed to play with balls is tiny. It's like buying a lottery ticket. The amount that learned teamwork, even with people you may not like personally, is like compound interest. At least to me.

  9. I went to a large school, graduating about 1000 students a year. I can only recall two students who played 3 sports. The boy was a good football player, so-so at basketball and good enough at baseball to get drafted out of high school. The girl was outstanding in field hockey and softball, maybe just good at basketball. The boy was dumber than rocks, but the girl was a scholar. The competition for spots is much harder at larger schools.

    I played soccer which I liked but was just barely on the team but got me in shape for wrestling. The overlap of seasons and keeping up grade meant choosing one and that became wrestling.

  10. I think there is way too much emphasis on sports, and particularly on winning, at many schools - as mentioned above, to the point that the students wishes and sometimes body are ignored.
    The school I went to was in a wealthy area and insanely good academically. Sports were not pushed and made a huge deal of like other schools - even though they easily could have; multiple sports had decade+ running state championships.


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