Central Catholic girls soccer and basketball coach Casey Grange believes that playing soccer and basketball make players better at both sports. She also believes that specialization is not worth the commitment for most young athletes.
Benefits of Soccer and Basketball
For players that play both basketball and soccer, Coach Grange noticed two benefits. First, the soccer players were much better defenders on a basketball court. She specifically referenced the footwork, ability to get into a defensive stance, and the balance that these players generally exhibit. The other benefit that soccer players brought to the court was understanding timing and spacing in an offense when it comes to efficient passing.
Specialization or Multiple Sports?
Having discussed the benefits of playing both sports, I asked Coach Grange what the cons were of playing basketball and soccer. She struggled to come up with answers on why specialization was better than playing multiple sports. She did acknowledge that players who were truly elite (Division I caliber athletes at the NCAA level) are justified in specializing in one sport. In general, Coach Grange believes that playing multiple sports are better for the majority of high school athletes for three reasons.
First, kids develop better interpersonal skills. Let’s say that Suzy is great at soccer, but an average basketball player. As the average basketball player, Suzy learns to empathize with her teammates who may lack her skill level in soccer. By being on both teams, there could be overlap, but she will most certainly meet more people. The connections and bonds of a team in high school sports create an experience that even adults who play in college or professionally speak about with the highest regard.
Second, kids that do AAU basketball or club soccer can grow to become desensitized to losing. There are as many as five games on a weekend. Coach Grange believes it is difficult to sustain competitiveness as games become more routine than a special event. In sticking to seasonal events, games are less frequent and the particular games (i.e. soccer or basketball) is unique. The idea of playing forty games of basketball versus twenty games of soccer and twenty of basketball is very different from a mental standpoint too.
Finally, the multiple sport athletes are less likely to burn out. Coach Grange said she has heard of many cases where the specialized athlete eventually quits when they get to college.