Options and implications: multiple sports for youth physical preparation

Blog by: Kaushik Talukdar

Edited by: Suryakant Tripathi

There are plenty of evidence against early specialisation therefore the goal of this article is to provide some basic insight for kids particularly under the age of 14, encouraging them to participate in multiple sports. Apart from the psychological and physiological benefits of participating in different sports, kids also tend to learn different movement skills due to rules, environment and demands associated with each sport.

The only alternative option for learning different movement skills is to be involved in a formalised physical training programme, however that may not have a strong impact in the early stages due to lack of intrinsic motivation. Basically, kids will not enjoy doing x number of reps or y number of sets and be instructed to move in a certain way. In fact excessively relying on external feedback in the early stages may at times be detrimental to long term learning process. It may be better for the kids to explore (task and environment) to find solution on their own with some guidance from coaches whenever appropriate. Below are few examples of various categories of sports, all of these can help kids explore different movement variables and as a result may allow kids to have a better movement awareness and help them in their sport of choice. Kids do not have to learn all the categories below, rather compliment the existing sport with a skill and/or movement strategy that is different to one they are used to.

  1. Individual sport e.g. squash and team sport e.g. football: Individual sport can teach position awareness and decision making ability with less variability, however team sport can add complexity in decision making and also help kids look beyond individual conditions.
  2. Small surface area sport e.g. volleyball and large surface area sport e.g. rugby: Small surface area will demand small movements whereas large surface area will demand longer movements that will have different physiological and biomechanical demands on the body.
  3. Reactive e.g. badminton and non- reactive e.g. golf: Reactive sport will teach decision making skills in less time, non reactive sport will allow individuals to focus on refining skills with more time, it will also have different implication on movement strategy due to different time constraint.
  4. Contact e.g. rugby and non-contact e.g. cricket or tennis: Contact sports will teach force absorption and production skills with strong emphasis on overall physical preparation whereas non contact sports will help in developing physical preparation relevant in performing the skill required.
  5. Land based e.g. hockey and water based e.g. swimming: Body position in land based sport is different to most water based sports, therefore ability to use different body position could help in long term movement education. Land based sport also can be more demanding on the joints due to gravity compared to water based sports.
  6. Stationary starts e.g. track events and build up e.g. football or hockey: Ability to take off from still start can be different compared to taking off from a stride or a jog.
  7. Linear e.g. track based events and rotational e.g. field and court based sports/events: Sports or events that are linear in nature can be great introductory movement skills, however rotational sports can further compliment with movement occurring in different planes of motion.
  8. Cyclic e.g. rowing and acyclic e.g. field and court sports: Cyclic sports and events can be useful in practising a skill repeatedly with less complexity, whereas acyclic sports will allow kids to be more adaptive to external stimuli.
  9. Invasion e.g. basketball and non-invasion e.g. volleyball: Invasion sports will help understanding different tactics to non invasion sports, the ability to get to the right place at the right time will be different in both the above mentioned sports.

Physical Preparation Coaches can learn a lot watching kids play different sports and can use their observational skills as a valuable movement screen. Participation in different movement skills through sport, dance and formalised physical training may be useful in avoiding movement-based impairments in the long term.

Kaushik Talukdar

  • Designation: Strength and Conditioning Manager St Cuthbert’s College,
  • Strength and Conditioning Coach Pathway to Podium (High Performance Sport New Zealand, Aktive Auckland), and Short Course Lecturer Auckland University of Technology (AUT).
  • Education: Masters thesis in Sport and Exercise Science (Currently pursuing PhD in Sport science and exercise psychology). Australian Strength and Conditioning Accreditation level -2
  • Experience: 11 years (working with young, elite athletes and corporate clients, including athletes competing in Common Wealth Games, Olympic Games, World Cup Cricket under-19).
  • LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kaushik-talukdar-41513646/