Why sampling sports, rather than specializing in one, is better for kids - i9 Sports Franchise
Our youth sports franchise allows children to play up to 6 different sports in a non-competitive environment that lets them thrive
The 10,000-hour rule, which says that you need to spend 10,000 hours practicing something in order to become an expert, doesn’t necessarily apply to kids in sports.
Specializing in one specific sport, and often one specific position, can lead to burnout and even injury, while playing a variety of sports, known as sampling, can have long-term benefits. Many of the world’s best athletes grew up playing multiple sports. In fact, an estimated 7 out of 10 U.S. Olympians grew up as multi-sport athletes.
“Sports sampling is about more than the sport itself,” says Alli Wentzell, Manager of Sports Programming & Education. “Playing multiple sports helps athletes improve overall skills and abilities to make them smarter players and more physically developed.”
Most children don’t benefit from specializing
The tendency of many parents who spot some natural talent early on is to push hard in hopes of developing the next Tiger Woods, but that very rarely works out. In fact, it can have the effect of pushing children out of sports altogether.
“What we’ve seen in the research is that we’re turning sports into work for kids at a really young age,” Dr. Matt Bowers told the U.S. Youth Soccer Organization. Bowers is an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Texas-Austin. “And that has long-term ramifications. One of the big problems in this country is that kids stop playing sports after they’re out of school.”
With sampling, however, children arguably become better athletes and more well-rounded in general, less prone to injury, social isolation and mental fatigue. The U.S. Youth Soccer Organization wrote, “Bowers said sampling allows kids to develop better physically and psychologically, and it makes them more likely to continue playing sports beyond the youth level. Interestingly, playing multiple sports may also produce better results that will please players, parents and potentially coaches at the highest levels.”
A different kind of youth sports franchise
i9 Sports does things a little differently. From the outset, our youth sports franchise has striven to create an experience for children ages 3-14 that is unlike the culture of other youth sports organizations.
While some established leagues have turned into an atmosphere of hyper-competition where emotions run high, i9 Sports is all about fun. We offer flag football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ZIP Lacrosse™ and volleyball, and our unique business model makes it easier for families to participate in all of them.
The Aspen Institute’s “Project Play,” which has designated i9 Sports as a Project Play Champion, says focusing on single sports is symptomatic of the “undue pressure applied by parents” that winds up turning kids away from sports. Project Play released a powerful series of PSAs with the hashtag #dontretirekid that portray 9-year-olds announcing their retirement from athletics.
As noted on its website, “Project Play has been a national leader in establishing the benefits of multi-sport play and addressing the trend of early specialization that can heap undue pressure on children and unsustainable costs on families.”
i9 Sports franchise has also been a leader in these efforts, holding practices and games on the same day and committing to allow every child to play in every game. Our goal is to help children succeed in life through sports, and our emphasis is always on having fun.
i9 Sports offers age-appropriate sports designed to introduce young athletes to every aspect of a new sport. In the Pee Wee and Junior divisions, kids rotate through all of the positions so they can learn the sport from every angle and find the position that best suits them.
Playing and practicing just one day a week doesn’t require as much commitment for kids and families, so trying a new sport for a season is very convenient.
“At most of our locations, we offer multiple sports at the same time so kids can see other sports being played,” says Wentzell. “That can be a way for kids to watch other sports and encourage them to try it because they’ve seen other kids having a good time playing.”
By encouraging sampling, we also afford children the opportunity to become even better athletes, without the pressure that can come from specializing in a sport at too early an age.