Why Hall of Fame Running Back Terrell Davis Hates Youth Sports Specialization

TD weighs in on one of the hottest issues in youth sports.

Long before Terrell Davis was a Hall of Fame running back, he was a multi-sport youth athlete.

"In my neighborhood, we competed in everything. Basketball, football, baseball. We did everything," Davis told STACK. "I think when you play multiple sports, and not just focus on one sport, it develops different skill sets that you have and different muscles that you work. It just makes you a more well-rounded athlete."

That well-roundedness turned out to be extraordinarily valuable for Davis, who actually didn't play high school football until his junior year at Lincoln High School (San Diego, California). Davis was a track and field star who set school records in both the discus and the 400-meter dash. When he came out for the football team, the running back spot—his position of choice and what he played in youth football—was filled with an incumbent starter. Davis found himself playing positions like nose guard, fullback, kicker and guard.

Admittedly "not a guy who lifted a lot of weights" in high school, Davis relied upon the great functional strength he'd built as a thrower and the tremendous foot speed and acceleration he'd honed as a sprinter. Unsurprisingly, these traits carried over well to the football field and Davis found success no matter where he lined up.

"I think that's kinda the purpose of playing multiple sports. You're allowed to go out there and maximize whatever talent you have," Davis says. "I didn't know I was going to play professional football at all. I just played sports I enjoyed…today you see a lot of kids being forced to play one sport all year round. I'm not a big fan of that. I have little kids now and I try to make sure they (compete) in all different sports." The research is on Davis's side. A recent study found that multi-sport youth athletes have a better chance than their single-sport peers of advancing on to become a collegiate and/or professional athlete, and they also appear to be at lower risk of lower extremity injuries.

After his multi-sport high school days, Davis went on to become a two-time Super Bowl champion, a three-time Pro Bowl running back and the 1998 NFL MVP. His 2,008 rushing yards in 1998 stand as the fourth-most rushing yards in a season in NFL history.

Photo Credit: Rick Stewart/Getty Images