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Bicker's Soap Box: Multi-Sport v. Lacrosse Only Athletes

Jim Brown - Football & Lacrosse
Jim Brown – Football & Lacrosse
Should your child play lacrosse 24-7, year round or take some time off to throw in some soccer, basketball, martial arts, skiing, gymnastics, hockey, etc? In a recent article by John Jiloty in the October issue of Inside Lacrosse Magazine titled “Jiloty on Mult-Sport vs. Lacrosse-Only Debate“, Jiloty discusses whether or not it is better to focus on playing lacrosse year round or play multiple sports.  To summarize the article, Jiloty sent an email to 43 NCAA D-I college coaches and within 24 hours received 29 enthusiastically pro multi-sport athlete responses. He continues to dissect the different motives coaches have for recruiting multi-sport athletes.
All coaches have examples of the new lacrosse player, whether he is the soccer player who comes in and can run forever or the football player who aggressively goes after every ground ball, who joins the team and instantly makes a difference. It makes sense that kids can learn footwork, spacing, and basic motor skills like running and balance from playing other sports but they can learn all of that from playing lacrosse too, so why do NCAA D-I coaches prefer to recruit multi-sport athletes.
I am pro multi-sport athlete but I think I understand both sides of the argument so the following is my attempt at describing the pros and cons of being a multi-sport athlete. If you have an opinion or would like to add to this please feel free to comment.
PRO: Being a multi-sport athlete helps you develop skills in a different way than on a lacrosse field. Being versatile is a huge advantage. Can you look ahead and push transition like a basketball player?  Can you sprint up and down the field like a soccer player? Do you have the hand eye coordination to control a hockey puck? Can you be aggressive and use your body like a football player? All of these skills are useful and will help your lacrosse abilities.
CON: Are you losing or falling behind with your lacrosse stick skills during the off-season because you don’t pick up a stick for a few months? When players are forced to focus on another sport they forget to spend a little time improving their lacrosse skills.
PRO: “There is nothing you can be doing in lacrosse on your own in the fall that would be better for you than going to football or soccer practice every day,” Dom Starsia (Virginia Head Coach) said. “You can go bang a ball against a wall all you want, but how do you become a better team player? By playing other team sports.”
CON: Living in an area where overall competition is not as strong, taking the off-season to travel to recruiting camps and play on elite teams will help you improve against better talent and also gain exposure to more college coaches.
PRO: Becoming coachable, paying attention to detail, understanding the importance of preparation, working toward a goal, understanding your role and evaluating your performance from playing other sports are “such a huge advantage,” John Danowski (Duke Head Coach) said. “Playing club lacrosse once a week, I don’t know if that it’s the same.”
PRO: It has been found that sport specialization leads to burnout and overuse injury. Training in multiple sports enhances athletes’ ability to develop muscularly which is called the “cross-training theory.” According to coach Ricky Fried, Georgtown women’s lacrosse coach, “Sport specialization also leads to a general lack of being a kid…. Creativity starts to fade away.”
As I said before, I am pro multi-sport athlete and for me the biggest reason to play other sports as much as you can is to build friendships and make as many experiences as possible. I was lucky enough to play soccer, baseball, golf, basketball, and lacrosse growing up and I still have friends from lots of those old teams. I have forgotten a lot of the games but the guys and the experiences I will never forget. That is why I would encourage all players, if possible, to play other sports during the lacrosse off-season. BUT, don’t forget to hit the wall and go shoot as often as you can.
The quotes used by Danowski, Starsia and Fried are from part of an article called “Five Big Things Every Lacrosse Parent Should Know“, by Matt Forman. This article has some great information for any parent of a lacrosse player.
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  1. I agree with both sides. I grew up playing atleast 6 sports but once you start growing up you need to eliminate some that you may grow out of. I have eliminated all sports and focus on lacrosse now, but i use many skills that i learned from basketball and football especially in my lacrosse game. But there comes a time when you need to focus in on one area.

  2. One of the most important things of playing multiple sports is increasing your overall situational awareness; being there for the plays. Also multiple sports have different skill sets that carry over to another sport. For example: Defense in basketball; You’ve got to keep your opponent from scoring by keeping yourself between him and the basket. Learning to trust your teammates for help when you get beat is a huge part as well. Staying in a proper defensive position to react with the ball-handler. Basketball is also a great way to learn consistency and efficiency. Taking the right shots and making the shots you take. Practicing all of these basketball skills helped me become a better defender in lacrosse and a better lacrosse player in general.

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