While some swear by focusing in on one sport as the only way to excel at a high level, others vehemently oppose it and even advocate for athletes to pick up more sports to become better athletes. Halifax (Massachusetts) youth softball coach Brian Caron is one who advocates the latter.
“You look at all these great athletes in any sport and what do they have in common? They’re multi-sport athletes — or at least they were growing up,” Caron said. “Michael Jordan was a great baseball player, LeBron James probably could’ve played in the NFL, Jennie Finch was a great basketball and volleyball player. The list goes on.”
When asked which sports would work best for young athletes, Caron named a few, and explained why that each sport is specifically good.
In the winter, Caron said it is beneficial for his players to run track.
“This one is pretty self-explanatory,” he said. “It’s a lot of running and the field events require some athleticism, which is always nice. Sprinting is good because it’s explosive, like hitting, throwing, and base-running.”
Some might not think of tennis as a great sport for athletes to pick up, but Caron said it might be the best offseason sport for his girls, even though it’s often a spring sport at schools.
“The beauty of it is all you need is a racket, ball, and a public tennis court, which there’s plenty of,” he said. “You can play it as long as there’s not snow on the court, essentially. There’s a lot of agility in it and obviously you’re swinging a racket, which is great for hand-eye coordination.
“The ball is moving and so are you, so you really have to work hard be in control and have your body under you — like pitching,” he added. “Plus, I can tell my girls that (Boston Red Sox second baseman) Dustin Pedroia credits a lot of his success to his tennis days, and that piques their interest, too.”
Soccer is another sport Caron mentioned for its conditioning benefits, foot-eye coordination skills, and the fact that it can be played at both indoor and outdoor venues.
“What’s not to like?” he said. “There’s a lot of running as well as foot-eye coordination, which has the same sorts of benefits for an athlete as practicing hand-eye coordination. Definitely gives young athletes another perspective of it.”
Although Caron recommends a few sports in particular, he admits they are not the only ones that can benefit softball players.
“If a player enjoys other sports in the offseason, I’d never sway them away from their other passions,” he said. “Mostly, I think those sports I mentioned are simple enough for my players to take up without expecting any crazy skills out of them other than hard work.”
“The main thing is you don’t want the kids to get bored. And if you push a kid into one sport 24/7, there’s a much greater chance of that happening, and it’s unfortunate.”