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Coaches can’t even agree on which is best: sport specialization or multiple sports

Paige Judson, Sports page Editor

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When it comes to playing sports, most people go one of two ways.

They put all of their energy and focus into one sport so that they can work their hardest to be the best that they can be. Others decide that they have many interests and don’t want to be tied down to one sport.

The big thing that athletes face these days is they think that the only way they will make it is if they specialize in just one sport, and that is not what most college coaches think.

Dan Fishel, the Muskegon Community College track and field and cross country coach does not feel this way.

“After coaching cross country for 16 years and track & field for 10 years, I prefer athletes who compete in multiple sports,” he said. “Many studies have shown that athletes that compete in multiple sports have a lower rate of repetitive injuries.”

Timothy McGuine, a senior scientist and research coordinator at the University of Wisconsin Health Sports Medicine Center and author of The American Journal of Sports Medicine written back in July of 2017 says, “We found that kids who had higher levels of specialization were at about a 50 percent greater risk of having an injury.”

That is one of the huge disadvantages of just playing one sport, and one of the main reasons that junior Tommy Cotner plays multiple sports.

“Playing multiple sports helps with overall athletic ability and helps to keep all of your muscles conditioned all year round,” said Cotner, who plays football, dives and used to play baseball..

Though playing multiple sports is huge in some sports, some coaches see it a different way, especially when it comes to college coaches.

Rick Rykse, head volleyball coach at Muskegon Community College, said he believes that for an athlete to be her best at a higher level, she should be putting more focus into one sport.

“As kids start to get older and find out which sports they really have a passion for, then often times they need to specialize more and spend more time in just 1-2 sports in order to excel in that sport,” Rykse said. “Playing many sports can make them a better rounded athlete, but spending more time in a single sport can help them perform that sport at a higher level.”

Studies show that athletes who put more focus into one sport tend to hit earlier peak performance. This means that athletes are able to be on the top of their game while still being an adolescent.

Many disagree with this as being a benefit to being a single sport athlete.

Hope College basketball coach Gregory Mitchell is one of them.

“I’ve always been a proponent of high school athletes participating in multiple sports,” he said. “I think it allows for a more diverse experience and exposes athletes to competitive situations that are unique to that sport.”

Shores Athletic Director Ryan Portenga agrees. He said he also believes that it is best for the mental and physical health of the athlete to be playing multiple sports.

“Here at Mona Shores we want athletes,” he said. “We don’t want a volleyball player or a softball player; we want an athlete in every sport. Studies show it’s better for kids health wise and emotionally and mentally, so that’s something that we promote, and if you ask any other AD, that is what they will say.”

In the end, there are two ways to go. It all depends on the coach and what they think. Rykse said, “So what is the answer? You need both to have a successful program.”

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