We have talked a lot already about the evils of specialization. Here is what the experts have to say on the subject.
Companion sports are a great idea. That means a player can certainly feel like one sport is their main sport but allows them to participate in additional sports that give them some variety in their lives and take some of the strain away from specialization. For instance, an athlete can see fastpitch softball as their primary sport but still play soccer or volleyball or basketball as a companion sport.
While it appears that boys start specializing earlier than girls there is no doubt that more and more softball players are being pressured into specializing at a young age. Early specialization can lead to a myriad of issues including overuse injuries and burnout.
Many national organizations are leading the way in encouraging multi-sport participation. USA Swimming, for example, has started a program called FlexSwim which allows for fewer meets and less practice for athletes that want to compete in additional sports. This has been met with some resistance in a sport where the best swimmers are swimming every day and competing every weekend but it has gained a great deal of momentum.
Most professional athletes were multi-sport athletes. We often want to push specialization as a way to get to the highest levels. Obviously, if you can make it to the professional level being a multi-sport athlete we should be able to encourage our players to spread their wing.
We are not saying that a serious softball player should ever stop training for her sport but we are saying that a lot can be gained by participating in a complementary sport. You can play another sport and still work on your game.
It doesn’t have to be one or the other!
About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.