From Michelle Akers:
I got this question through FB. It's a common one and many folks struggle with this, so I thought I'd share.
Q. Michelle, I could use your help, my friend's daughter is a stand out three sport athlete in her second year of high school, coaches are telling her father that she needs to focus on one, any thoughts?
A. Unfortunately, I don't think there is ONE answer, but the general school of thought is if you want to excel at something, you gotta specialize and focus on that one thing. It's said it takes 10,000 hours to master something. That's a lot of focus and a lot of time to master or become an expert in a specific area or skill.
In saying that and applying it to this particular question of whether or not a high school athlete should specialize in one sport only...in my opinion, it depends. It depends on 3 things:
The age. Athletes who play multiple sports are over all better athletes and more mentally fresh (vs one sport athletes who can get burned out). Also being a multi-sport athlete allows for greater success when or if they choose to focus on one sport. Most pro athletes played many sports growing up then specialized in HS or college.
The athlete. Each person must pursue their greatest passion and what makes them excited to do and the have the most fun doing. That is the key to happiness and the ability to endure what it takes to be successful. If they love love love soccer and are begging to only play soccer, then let them. If they enjoy playing many sports, explain the point of view of these other coaches along with consequences of their choices, and let them choose. They are old enough to know what brings them joy and what is drag. And then whatever they choose, support them through the process.
The dream. It's 1% or less of all athletes who actually make it to the top. Chances are your kid won't be on the US Team of play in the Olympics or professionally, but that shouldn't stop kids from dreaming about it. Dreams are meant to take us places. They fuel our passions. Sometimes those dreams come true to the very bullseye... and sometimes they take us to the place where we realize the dream was meant for something else and the path turns or widens into new possibilities. My point is it's about the kid. It's not about actually making the Olympics or winning the championship. It's about supporting the kid (including their dream) so they develop into who (the person) they are supposed to be as an adult. Notice I didn't say athlete in that sentence. As a parent (and coach) the athlete is always second to the person. Developing the person is or should be the primary focus.
So there you go. I hope this gives guidance or at least helps a little in answering this sometimes difficult decision.