Growing up, there were only two clubs that I knew about: the one pictured to the left being held by my old buddy Bam Bam and the other one is that place all those rappers used to talk about. But there is a new club out there: the sports club. Sports like lacrosse, baseball, soccer, etc. have all grown club teams that have grown exponentially in recent years. For some athletes. the club sport scene is the reason that they got into the university that they desired. For others, it is wreaking havoc on the development of some athletes.
When did it become a standard to play one sport all year around? As I sat back and watched the PIAA Team Wrestling Championships this weekend, I made an observation to a friend about the attitude of some of the multi-sport athletes that were competing. Even if the score was not in thier favor, they still competed and worked hard to get back in it. As a former football coach, I was proud to see that toughness, both physically and mentally. For the athletes that only participated in one sport for most of their life, I noticed a different psyche. When things didn't go their way, you could almost see the psychological effect it had on them. The sample size is small and this aberration may totally be made up but it is something that I believe in. The more you compete in a variety of sports, the greater the opportunity to learn valuable lessons. Lessons on toughness. Lessons on losing (remember, more competitions = more opportunities to get your butt whooped). And lessons on being a teammate.
The most common answer you hear from athletes who quit a sport: I just want to focus on one sport. It is a big cop out and you hear it all the time. They may decide to play lacrosse all year around and give up on their basketball dreams. So instead of playing bball in the winter, they are playing indoor lacrosse. They have a coach hyping them up. This coach is telling them that if they keep working, and join their summer league team, they will get an opportunity to play in front of a lootttt of college coaches. Who knows, maybe one of those coaches may like you enough to offer you a scholarship. How could the kid and parent say no? Nevermind the fact that the percentages say only about 7% of high school athletes play in college. They buy into what the coach is saying, and I mean that literally. They fork over the cash for the opportunity to play on the Elite Tiger Bear Catzz Club team (there are some ridiculous club names out there, trust me. Or you can google it yourself). These kids psyche and athletic skills become very limited outside of the training for the sport that they play. They have no other training skills to fall back on.
Mike Tyson said it best: "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." What happens when this skilled club player gets "punched in the mouth?" (not literally I hope). How will they react? If they grew up playing a contact sport like football, they may bounce up off that turf and get back after it. If they grew up on a wrestling mat they may have the mental toughness to rebound after a loss. Believe me, in a sport like wrestling, there is always someone out there that can put a whupping on you. You better learn how to lose if you want to improve and develop in anything that you do. When you don't have a varied background, you may not be able to develop the proper coping mechanisms to survive. It is a tough world out there sometimes and when you close your world off from everything but one thing, and that one thing doesn't work out for you, it could be extremely detrimental to your mental well-being. Your self-esteem may suffer. You put in a ton of work and you still struggle to play well, or start for your team, or even make the team. This is a lot to handle for anyone, especially a young kid. Don't become bound by one coach or one sport. Experience new skills, sports, and competitions and enjoy the process!