|(Written originally in June, 2017 – this post resonates now as much as ever – and our direction remains clearly in the right direction!)|
It’s been over a decade since the local travel soccer coach told my then 9 year old daughter that she was no longer his “number 1 prospect” – in fact, she wasn’t even welcome on the team. “This – because he learned she was also interested in playing lacrosse. “Life’s 2 Short 4 Just 1 Sport” was born from that moment of outrage and it humbles me when I realize how many children have experienced the benefits of sport sampling and physical literacy as a result. But, as I travel North America and share our philosophy and program for activation – as positive and as optimistic as I try to be – it is hard to tell if we’re heading in the right direction on this or not. Too often, I share our story, and we hear from parents, coaches and athletes alike whose endings are not quite so happy. Here’s a few examples of what I consistently hear:
Parent–“She was so much better than everyone else when she played U10 and playing year round just seemed like the thing to do – and what the premier coaches told us we should do. After her 2nd ACL tear, the joy just wasn’t there anymore and she stopped playing altogether.“
Athlete-“I figured it out with my mom at dinner the other night. I played 174 games last year. I’ve since heard her telling her friends like it’s a proud accomplishment – she even posted it on her Facebook. I have to tell you – it doesn’t feel like “playing” when you “play” that much.”
Coach–“In all my years as a varsity coach, I could never imagine hearing this – but now I hear it all the time from players. Coach – please don’t ride me so hard. You’re lucky I’ve decided to play at all. My AAU coach told me I should take the high school season off – but since I am playing for you – don’t expect me to go 100% a hundred percent of the time??.
These stories are not outliers. I’ve heard nearly identical versions or slight variations on the theme in Seattle, Denver, Austin, Philadelphia, Toronto, Richmond, DC, NYC…. And – in all honesty – sometimes I feel like I’m running into the wind on this movement. But, then I remind myself. When you run into the wind – the beautiful thing is that as long as you keep your head down and your eyes up – and you keep on moving your legs – you reach your destination. I’ve always preached that “Direction is more important than speed!”
There is good reason for optimism. When 2-4-1 Sports began, there was very little in place at the national level directly advocating for sport sampling. It was a little bit like global warming. Everybody felt it happening. Data and science were proving its negative effects. But, on the individual level, families were saying – Let someone else play multiple sports. While they’re out there getting a little good at a lot of things, my kid will get really good at one thing. And before you knew it, we hit a tipping point and lots and lots of damage had been done based on this “exception” thinking. Some parents started to realize they were playing lottery with their kids hoping they might be the next Tiger Woods.
So – what’s changed? First off, I am forever grateful to Project Play for inviting me to the national conversation and introducing me to so many wonderful people that I now call friend (see below regarding the Quality Coaching Collective). We have developed some sanity at the 30,000 feet level and almost all of the national governing bodies have a position statement/article/promo touting the advantages of multisport participation and the Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD)/American Development Model (ADM) that we subscribe to. Here’s just a sampling – click on any of the sport links below and you’ll see consistent messaging:
It is genuinely important that we have this support at the top level as it lends credibility to those working at the ground level. I feel blessed to be able to walk in both of these worlds as we move beyond simple advocacy and promotion nationally – and move towards programming and activation locally. Talk is truly cheap in this case! I’ve been at this long enough to see that some folks at the national level are simply about talking while others are genuinely about supporting activation. Activation is where the magic happens. It’s where the kids are playing, falling in love with sports and building confidence and desire to be active for life.
If you’re a parent and/or a person in a position to impact change. Do these two things:
Insist that your child’s team or your organization has a clear position about the value of multisport participation and they have policies in place that actually SUPPORT this position.
Pull your child – or yourself from the team/organization if they’re not adhering to #1. And if they are adhering, then tell everyone and anyone you can about it! Grassroots movements don’t take place by being silent!
There’s a lot at stake here. 70% of all children drop out of youth sport by age 13 and most say the reason is because they’re not having fun anymore. I’m telling you right now -playing 1 sport year round is not fun. Let’s stop the madness and 1 family, 1 child, 1 coach at a time start to reverse this thing. Let’s keep heading in the right direction – and – if you don’t mind – can we do it a little more quickly. My old legs are getting tired!
About Steve Boyle
Steve is the Executive Director of 2-4-1 CARE, Inc and Co-Founder/Director of 2-4-1 Sports -- a signature program of 2-4-1 CARE-- whose flagship program is held at the Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford, Conn. but now has locations throughout the United States and Canada. 2-4-1 was recognized by the Aspen Institute in Washington, DC as one of eight model programs in the United States for its approach to anti-specialization in youth sports. This led Steve to form the National Association of Physical Literacy – of which he is now Advisory Board Chair. Steve is also a founding member of the Quality Coaching Collective – an international group of activators around sport, movement and mindfulness. Lastly, through his role at CCG, Steve was the two-year Global Lead on Physical Literacy and Athletics for Whittle School & Studios (2018-20), which currently has campuses in Shenzhen, China and Washington, DC.