Teacher Reflection

Multi-sport athletes

Back-to-school Night – TED-style sharing

At our Middle School Back-to-school-night, we run things a little differently. Staff are invited to submit a proposal to engage in a 15 minute TED talk style sharing with parents. Twelve staff then share in 15-minute talks with parents and parents choose which of these they are interested in listening to. This style of sharing allows us to share a range of topics with parents and colleagues and gives a chance to really think about what we believe in as Educators in this community.

Two years ago, I gave a talk about why PE is the most important subject. This was born of the focus that PE is not just about being an Athlete but is made up of many facets that allow students to be successive and productive members of our communities. PE allows students to learn through movement about the soft-skills that make us who we are and enable us to problem solve within our workplaces, families and friendships.

This year I decided to focus on the Multi-sport athlete v the Individual athlete. I felt that this is a very timely topic as we see a number of our families strong push students/children into a single discipline sport and with that comes concerns.

I will include the link to my slide deck here, but here are my major takeaways:

  • Sports and activities must be developmentally appropriate based on physical, mental and social development for their age group
  • Children and Youth must move through a series of different types of engagement with Activity/Sport to allow them to flourish
  • Research suggests that children should
    • Sample Sport (6-12 years)
    • Specialise in Sport (13-15 years)
    • Invest in Sport (16 years +)
  • Sampling allows children/youth to
    • Find a Match Quality – fall in love with the sports they will continue to play. This, in turn, creates intrinsic motivation and they want to play, practice and improve.
    • Work with a variety of coaches and coaching techniques
    • Work with a variety of teammates
    • Play across multiple surfaces, with a variety of objects across many different seasons
    • Take on varied roles within team contexts
    • Build connective tissue and muscles from variety of movements and experiences
    • Rest from repetitive movements that can lead to overuse injuries
    • Rest from playing one sport only (all year)
  • Adolescent bodies are not the same as adult bodies – we must be very careful about how we play to look after growing bodies and minds.
  • Mental burn out and stress occurs in young athletes who are injured and cannot play or socialise with their team
  • Grit and Resilience are important qualities to build, but so is the ability to know when to quit and move onto something else. Loss aversion can be an issue for families who feel they have invested so much time, money and energy into a sport that they cannot stop playing it – Match quality and building a love of life through movement should be the focus here.

ISB MS PE is working to try and build Sampling opportunities for our students in Grade 6 that can then lead into some more depth and Specialisation opportunities in Grade7/8 which fits in line with our ES and HS PE programs. ISB offers a range of after school sports/activities that allow students to Sample but also to Specialise and then Invest as they grow as athletes.

Families must be encouraged to work with our schools and communities to ensure students are growing from their movement opportunities – and not specialising too early which can lead to a loathing of movement at young ages.


Thank you to all of those who offered me articles, videos, advice and research journals in my quest for information and examples.


Arne Güllich (2017) International medallists’ and non-medallists’ developmental sport activities – a matched-pairs analysis, Journal of Sports Sciences, 35:23, 2281-2288, DOI: 10.1080/02640414.2016.1265662

Paul R. Ford, Paul Ward, Nicola J. Hodges & A. Mark Williams (2009) The role of deliberate practice and play in career progression in sport: the early engagement hypothesis, High Ability Studies, 20:1, 65-75,DOI: 10.1080/13598130902860721

American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. “Early sports specialization tied to increased injury rates in college athletes.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 March 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190316162202.htm>.

“5 Reasons You Want Your Kid to Be a Multi-Sport Athlete.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, www.espn.com/espnw/voices/article/17831948/5-reasons-want-your-kid-multi-sport-athlete.

BBC Radio. “‎Don’t Tell Me The Score: Range: David Epstein on Apple Podcasts.” Apple Podcasts, 17 July 2019, podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/dont-tell-me-the-score/id1440729436?i=1000444739084.

Bridge, Matthew W, and Martin R Toms. “The Specialising or Sampling Debate: a Retrospective Analysis of Adolescent Sports Participation in the UK.” Journal of Sports Sciences, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22974248.

Caruso, Thomas H., and Cscs. “Early Sport Specialization Versus Diversification in Youth Athletes.” National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), NSCA, 1 Dec. 2013, www.nsca.com/education/articles/nsca-coach/early-sport-specialization-versus-diversification-in-youth-athletes/.

“The Dangers of Early Sport Specialization.” Grandstand Central, 16 July 2019, grandstandcentral.com/2018/sections/science/the-dangers-of-early-sport-specialization-in-youth-athletics/.

Epstein, David J. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. Riverhead Books, 2019.

Fetters, Ashley. “The Case Against Grit.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 31 May 2019, www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2019/05/david-epstein-range/590704/.

Holt, Jim. “Remember the ‘10,000 Hours’ Rule for Success? Forget About It.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 28 May 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/05/28/books/review/david-epstein-range.html.

Hommen, J Pieter. “The Multi-Sport versus Single-Sport Athlete.” Dr. J. Pieter Hommen – Orthopedic Surgeon & Sports Medicine, 4 Apr. 2019, www.hommenorthopedics.com/blog/the-multi-sport-versus-single-sport-athlete-12133.html.

Macnamara1, Brooke N, et al. “International Medallists’ and Non-Medallists’ Developmental Sport Activities – a Matched-Pairs Analysis.” Taylor & Francis, Pps.sagepub.com, 23 May 2016, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02640414.2016.1265662.

Rugg, Caitin, et al. “The Effects of Playing Multiple High School Sports on National Basketball Association Players’ Propensity for Injury and Athletic Performance.” The American Journal of Sports Medicine, Sage Journals , 14 Nov. 2017, www.newswise.com/articles/study-of-elite-nba-players-re-affirms-positive-impact-of-playing-multiple-youth-sports.

Soberlak, Peter & Côté, Jean. (2003). The Developmental Activities of Elite Ice Hockey Players. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. 15. 10.1080/10413200305401. 

Thesecretpractitioner. “Early Sampling through Deliberate Play.” The Secret Practitioner, 17 June 2019, thesecretpractioner.com/2019/06/11/early-sampling-through-deliberate-play/.

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