The Playmaker Project

Sport Training Question: Should younger athletes do multiple sports?

Sport Training Question: Should younger athletes play just one sport?

“A step in the wrong direction at the beginning of a journey takes you a hundred miles away from your Goal.”

GOAL:  The goal of this article is to teach parents and coaches why it is important they have their young athletes participate in multiple sports while also engaging in sports training.


Dr. Arne Gullich at the 2016 Youth Athlete Development Conference gave this quote, “Junior success is a poor indicator of long-term senior success.  Their success at the age of 10 had a zero correlation with their success as a senior.  The same was true with their success at ages 11-14, and 15-18.  We have a zero correlation.  That means, those who were better at a young age were not those who were better at an older age.

Gullich, head of the Department of Sport Science and director of the Institute of Applied Sport Science at Kaiserslautern University of Technology, said this based on his research from both the extensive network of German soccer development academies as well as German Olympic team athletes across all sports.

In a 2014 study, Gullich, along with Manuel Hornig and Friedhelm Aust, interviewed 52 soccer players who were members of Bundesliga teams (Germany’s top tier and one of the world’s elite leagues) as well as fifty amateur players who were in the 4th to 6th tier German leagues to understand their training histories and sports participation throughout their lives.

The reason for the study was that the researchers wanted to understand the different age points at which the athletes first played soccer, organized and non-organized, other sports they played and when they stopped in favor of full-time soccer; and the different types of training, including strength and conditioning, skill drills and actual gameplay.

The Bundesliga professionals, those who reached the pinnacle of German soccer, averaged about 4,300 hours of intense practice before making it to the top level.  The players who went on to make the German national team averaged 4,500 hours before age thirteen, compared to their amateur, age-matched counterparts.  The professional players played more non-organized soccer and more sports in general.  Interestingly, the earlier that players joined select teams, the less likely they were to make the senior teams.

This is what Gullich said in his presentation, “of those who were recruited at an age 11 or under 13, at the age of under 19, only 9 percent are left.  On the other hand, those who made it to the national A team of Germany, those we see in the World Cup, for example, were being built up gradually across all stages.

To sum up, Gullich believes that future athletes cannot be predicted reliably by way of young-age talent identification.

Particularly early talent development programming is neither necessary nor beneficial but correlates negatively with long-term success.


The research is pretty clear.  Premature overspecialization has the potential to deliver a quick increase in performance but ultimately leads to stagnation.  Extensive research and experimentation have demonstrated that athlete specialization must be supported by all-around preparation.  This type of athlete training for younger athletes is titled General Physical Preparation.

GPP encompasses a wide range of physical attributes including speed, agility, coordination, joint mobility, work capacity, etc.…

The Goal of General Physical Preparation is athlete training aimed at raising young athletes many athletic components, and then being able to apply those components to a wide range of tasks.

A great example of this for the adult population is CrossFit.  GPP also includes addressing weaknesses and imbalances.

Nikolay Ozolin is one of the founders of Soviet sports science, one of the mentors of young Yuri Verkhoshansky, and a legendary coach in Russia.  This is how he describes GPP,

“GPP contains the idea of all-around physical development.  This is why the qualities developed by GPP may be called general as they express the ability of the organism and its psychological sphere to perform any physical work more or less successfully.  Hence general endurance, general strength, general joint mobility, general coordination, general psychological preparedness.

GPP dictates exposure to a variety of sports games, and activities.  I know my 2 sons, KJ 11 and Maceo 8 have already been involved in Muay Thai, Guardian Art, Football, Basketball, Track and Field, Skateboard, Surfing, Rock Climbing, and Jiu-Jitsu.  For a young athlete, GPP should meet the following requirements.

1.  Safety: Nuff said.

2. Simplicity: Over-coaching can be more harmful than younger coaching.  Keep it simple.

3. Teaching basic movement skills.  Squatting, hinging, bracing, crawling, jumping, falling, running.

4. All-aroundness.  A mix of static and dynamic loads, a mix of energy pathways, a mix of loading directions.


In the Playmaker Projects’ 21 Day Junior Athlete Training Movement Series I focus on developing fundamental movement patterns, which form the basis of all subsequent movement training.

For young athletes there is little need to simulate sport-specific movement patterns, instead, the goal is to introduce, develop, and groove fundamental movement patterns, through the use of progressively challenging and FUN tasks.

In the 21 day program, we focus on teaching the basic athletic movement skills, developing strength while also making things SUPER fun.

For me, as a leader, coach, and dad I am more focused on attainment for my sons’ and younger athletes rather than accomplishment.


Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russel Wilson is considered by many to be the best player in the NFL right now.  Wilson played baseball and football at NC State, and played minor league baseball for a few years before deciding to focus on football. He has always been a big proponent of being a multi-sport athlete when it comes to sports training and counts two-sport stars Deion Sanders and Brian Jordan among his heroes.

This what he thinks of playing multiple sports, “I try to tell kids all the time: play as many sports as you can because it really helps. Playing point guard helped me play quarterback. Playing baseball, middle infield and having to dive for balls (or) having to throw on the run – balls hit behind the pitcher’s mound and you’ve got to go up and get it and throw it backwards behinds you to get the first down or get the guy out or whatever it be. Those kinds of things are real, being able to throw from different arm slots and everything else.”


Attainment = Accomplishing + Becoming

Attainment is both becoming and accomplishing. Accomplishing is how we measure the External. Becoming is how we measure the Internal.

Attainment = Accomplishing + Becoming

What seems to be lacking in the worlds’ volume of work on young athlete training, is a different way of describing what our young athletes who are competing are striving to do.  Most of us not only want our young athletes to Win.

We also want them to discover. We not only want them to get to the top of the mountain, but we also want them to strengthen physically, mentally, and spiritually because of the climb.

We want our kids to become something better than what they were when they started the struggle. We want them to go after attainment.  Its not about what our young athletes accomplish, its about who they become in the process.

Let’s get better today,

Coach Jackson
Coach Jackson
Master’s Degrees in Education (Specializing in the Work of Abraham Maslow and Human Potential) and an MBA in International Leadership and Coaching. He is a N.A.S.E certified Speed and Explosion Specialist and Optimize Coach.
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