How Long Should a Player be a Multi-Sport Athlete?

Parents want their child to excel and want to know at what age I stopped playing other sports and focused on soccer.  The answer to this question is much more complex than you might think.    Parents only want the best for their children.  They want them to succeed at everything and give them the opportunities to find what they are passionate about.  When it comes to sports they will put them in every sport under the sun and see how it shakes out.

By the time each child is 11 or 12 it is safe to say that they have their favorite sports.  This is where it becomes complicated. Now, we all know that in a perfect world each child would like only one sport and decide that that is all he or she wants to play, but we know better than that.  I was a child who knew that all I wanted to do was be a pro soccer player.  I played every sport there was while growing up, but I had the most fun playing soccer.  This was because I had some natural talent, but a lot of it was because of the people that were on my team.  I played for Los Gatos United from the time I was 9 years old until I went off to college.  Most of the players that were on my team when I was 9 were the same as when I was 18.  I was one of the lucky few that had a great situation.

When it comes to your child, however, the first priority is to narrow down what sport he or she is most passionate about, and what sport he or she has the most fun playing.  Then there are a couple questions you have to ask yourself:

1.  How old is your child?  If your child is 8 years old, then you don’t even need to be reading this post.  I do not think that this is something that you, as a parent, have to think about until your child is 11 or 12.  Until then it is important to have them try out a number of different sports and activities.  Only after trying many of sports can your child really know which one he or she is most interested in.

2.  What do I do if my child can’t pick one sport?  I tell the parents of the kids that I coach that I don’t mind if they play other sports, but I expect them to never miss a soccer practice or game because of having a conflict with another sport.  In other words, I expect them to miss other sports events in order to be at any soccer event that they have.  Soccer comes first.

In conclusion, your child can be a multi-sport athlete as long as he or she likes.  They just need to set priorities so that they are are meeting the expectations of their teammates and coaches.  In their minds they must value one sport over another, and as a parent you must help them make the decisions about which one to pour the most effort into.