At the beginning of freshman year, I decided to quit basketball and running to focus on golf. That was one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made.
I had been playing a variety of other sports for my entire life. Playing multiple sports growing up affected how I viewed myself as an athlete, because it allowed me to be multidimensional instead of just the “golf kid.” When that variety disappeared so I could prioritize golf, I was left without balance and felt like I was losing my way.
More and more students have been making the decision to focus on just one sport instead of playing multiple their whole lives, a decision which is detrimental to athletes’ mental health and performance as a whole. Specializing so much in one sport has gotten to the point where we aren’t having fun anymore.
I’ve seen this issue in countless other student-athletes, but I’ll begin on this point with my own story. When I played multiple sports, I had a cushion when things weren’t going my way on the golf course. I knew that maybe it wasn’t a golf day, but I could run a great race or play well in a basketball game. Playing more than one sport helped me be more patient with myself when I had an off day.
Losing that cushion made me feel pressure from not just myself but also other people. As I transitioned to specializing in golf, I felt like my teammates, coaches, and entire school needed me to play well, and there wasn’t room for me to be less than perfect. Stemming from those pressures, I wasn’t happy playing golf. I had countless nights where I thought about giving up because what was the point in continuing to play if I wasn’t good enough.
Playing multiple sports also gives you numerous opportunities to physically improve your game. Maeve Hickok (’24) is a three-sport varsity athlete has been playing multiple sports for “pretty much as long as I can remember.” She said that “you can’t play multiple sports and not have them benefit one another, even if one sport is your favorite. By playing soccer in the fall, it’s still going to help you with lacrosse in the spring.” Individual sports have lots of commonalities between them, from the physical movements required to the mental aspect of the sport.
Like Hickok, I have gained transferrable skills from the sports I’ve tried over the years. I would not be the golfer that I am today if I hadn’t played other sports. For example, when I played basketball, I was forced to build a lot of strength to make a free throw. When I took that strength back to golf, I suddenly noticed that I had gained significant distance in my golf game.
While there’s so much to be gained from playing multiple sports, it also doesn’t make much sense for most students to just focus on one. Don Maynard currently teaches EPW at Oyster River High School and has been a coach and the school’s athletic director. He said, “there are so many times where kids specialize in one sport, and in all honesty, they aren’t usually that good. Odds are… they aren’t going to get a full ride or even come close to going pro. So, in my opinion, there’s no place for focusing on one sport until maybe high school if you really do have the talent to try to take it to the next level.”
The key thing that I take away from my time playing multiple sports is the ability to look back and just smile. I am reminded of all of the fun moments because that is what sports are supposed to be: fun. Playing other sports helped me grow my passion for golf by reminding me of the values of the game aside from just the physical techniques. When I began my time as a one sport athlete that cushion was lost and maintaining the fun experience became increasingly difficult. Sports are above all else supposed to be fun and remind us to be grateful for the ability to play.
There are people who decide to specialize in one sport and have loved it and been happy and successful in those endeavors long term. Some people find their real talent and feel content with that, but for many of us, having variety helps add padding to the cushion and helps us be better overall. Plus, there are only benefits in playing multiple sports so why not continue with that?
There are a handful of success stories for one sport athletes but for many not having the multi-sport cushion can destroy a promising athlete’s career. One of my good friends with whom I played golf growing up was an incredible player. Her entire life was golf. She never had the opportunity to try another sport. She didn’t know anything else because that was what had been forced upon her for as long as she could remember. Shortly after she played in a big tournament with the best players from around the country, I didn’t see her on the course as much. Even in the lat-est rounds I played with her, she never seemed to be having fun with the golf aspect. She didn’t have the cushion of other sports that many of our peers had, and the pressure built up. In her sophomore year, she quit golf for good. Someone with so much talent burnt out at just 16.
Don’t let this happen to you. It is imperative that student-athletes are able to hone their skills, avoid burnout, and become the best overall athletes and people that we can be by participating in multiple sports.
– Delaney Nadeau