Today’s youth athlete is encouraged to partake in multiple sports and activities throughout their developmental years as the dangers of early specialization are well documented. Parents have seen the potentially detrimental effects that lasering in on a single sport at too early of an age can affect athletes in the past. Therefore the multi-sport athlete is a trend that has regained traction, and rightfully so.
Despite the continued education and actions of parents/coaches to diversify a child’s athletic portfolio, one common issue is overlapping sports seasons. Even worse, the ongoing global pandemic has exacerbated the issue, forcing athletes to commonly choose between gearing up for the gridiron or lacing up for the hardwood. There is no one size fits all answer for handling overlapping sports seasons. There are some critical things to consider to help manage the situation.
While there is no perfect way to handle an overlapping sports season, the harsh reality is that it happens all the time to athletes across the world. Some important things to consider before making decisions are as follows:
Is it possible to play both sports at once?
Some sports are compatible and allow an athlete to partake in both without highly detrimental effects, while others are not. Take, for example, women’s basketball in the winter and golf in the spring. A high school girl can play basketball and begin her golf season concurrently. This will ultimately be determined by her availability and commitment level within each sport.
Other sports like winter wrestling and spring track, for example, are nearly impossible to participate in concurrently. They simply require too much time and energy to participate simultaneously. No matter the situation, always remember that time is limited. When energy from one activity is directed into another there may be a drop in performance for both sports.
What is the age and level of the athlete?
One of the perhaps most important considerations of overlapping sports seasons is the age and level of the athlete. There is a major difference between a senior high school football player committed to play in college with the upcoming state championship game and basketball tryouts scheduled on the same day, versus the 12-year-old volleyball player who has club soccer crossing over with her practices. At a certain level, athletes will have to choose what is most important to them, but early on, it is not nearly as critical. In general, it is probably best to finish the current season outright and then enter into the new one when ready. Trying to stack too many activities on top of each other at once could become a disaster.
What to do?
As a parent and/or athlete, it can be challenging to decide on the best approach for handling overlapping sports seasons. When in doubt, try to implement some of the simple practices to aid in the decision process.
1) Talk To The Coaches
Communication is key, plain and simple. Talking to coaches and explaining the details of an athlete’s situation can help alleviate some of the stress that comes with juggling overlapping sports seasons. Youth sports coaches should understand the developmental process of an athlete and provide positive encouragement to help them succeed long term. Nobody cares about the middle school basketball championships Lebron James won when he was 13 years old. They care about how he became what he is today.
2) Decide What The Top Priority Is
As an athlete grows older, they will begin to narrow their sites on what sport they’d like to potentially specialize in after high school one day (hopefully). Identifying which sport they’d like to do can help determine what is most important and prioritize when seasons overlap, but time is limited. Again, I am never a fan of early sport specialization at the youth level. Particularly younger athletes (<14 years), but having a sense of what they enjoy most/are best is always a good thing.
3) Be Realistic
Understand that athletics is only a part of a child’s life, not everything. They must have enough time to do well in school, enjoy a social life, hang out with family, and sleep! Overloading their schedules with too many activities can cause undue stress and create bigger issues down the road. Decide if the overlapping season schedules can be managed and what the commitment level is, then ultimately, if it is worth balancing or not.
All in all, the reality of sports as a youth athlete includes overlapping seasons. This is nothing new and will continue for years to come. It is up to parents and coaches to help athletes navigate these situations as best as possible and come out the other end safe, happy, and a higher performer. Take the tips and considerations into mind to better help tackle the overlapping sports season dilemma for good!