Serious athletes need to concentrate on their best sport, at least for awhile, organizations admit

John Browne
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There seems to be fewer and fewer multi-sport elite athletes in local sports these days.

Gander Flyers' forward Shane Boland (25) carries the puck in a game at the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace in this TC Media file photo. Boland is an athlete who participates in a number of sports.

It was quite common back in the 1960s and ‘70s to see athletes such as Ian Campbell, Doug Squires, Tols Chapman, Bill Breen and others play a summer and winter sport throughout their careers.

Dick Power, for example, participated in soccer, ball hockey, basketball, hockey, running, softball and also a little baseball as an adult. It was not uncommon for Power to go to a soccer practice and then go on to play a ball hockey game after that.

In many cases, athletes, before their teens, play just about every game that’s available. They seem to narrow down their options at the junior age group level, whether their own choice or from outside pressure.

There are some sports organizations and coaches who frown on “their athletes” playing more than one sport, especially if it, in any way, overlaps with their season. They worry about injuries if there’s no break in between, or they are playing two sports during the same month.

Nowadays, a variety of sports offer summer training programs and camps for winter sports and winter training programs and camps for summer sports.

The general concensus among provincial sports governing bodies contacted by The Telegram is that it’s good for most kids to play several sports, but there comes a time when — if you want to be a provincial all-star or a Canada Games participant — you need to concentrate on one specific sport at least for a period of time.

Look for the full feature. In Thursday's edition of The Telegram.

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Recent comments

  • Jackie Barrett - Special Olympian
    November 07, 2013 - 06:56

    John Browne's article about the consequences of participating in too many sports is definitely bang on. As a 26 year Special Olympics member, I seen many Special Olympians participating in multiple sports to help their skill sets in their core or main sport. For example, a Sprinter would participate in Speed Skating to help him/her with Track and Field during the off season. In fact, according to Special Olympics Nova Scotia and Special Olympics Canada, a typical Special Olympian trains and participates in three sports, and some of them are involved in as many as seven or even eight sports. While participating in numerous sports are a great way to stay in shape, it also has disastrous consequences, including diminished overall athletic performance. I know one athlete from Nova Scotia whom competed at the Special Olympics Canada Games numerous times, but doesn't seem to get to the international level as he/she is involved in eight sports and hurting his/her performance in core sports at a national level. The main reason Special Olympics has a multi-sport problem are due to inadequate training times as many Special Olympics regions in Newfoundland and Labrador and across Canada provide only one day of practice at one hour per week, forcing athletes to explore their options to stay in shape and build their skill sets in their core sports. In order for Special Olympics to reduce their multi-sport problem, some solutions include encourage their regions to provide more practice time, at least two hours per day and twice per week, and impose restrictions on how many sports an athlete can participate. For example, Special Olympics can impose a two winter and two summer sport restriction. Even though it might take away athlete's choices, it will help Special Olympians perform much better in their core sport in the long run.