Single Sport Athletes need another sport

"You must play only one sport."
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"You cannot play only one sport."

There is a world of difference in these statements.

It is easy to look down upon the parent or coach who highly cncourages demands that an athlete cut down to one sport. And rightly so.

We know that specializing in one sport too early can be problematic in terms of health, and potentially adverse to their ultimate peak performance (see footnote below).  This is especially the case when the child or young adult has a desire to participate in something else. Childhood is short. Life is short. Kids can and should be encouraged to do what is healthy and fun for them. Anyone who demands that someone play exclusively one sport is off the mark and in serious want of perspective.

More recently, it has become common to criticize all single sport athletes in a similar vein.

But what about the serious athlete who does not want to play another sport?

Now more than ever, parents and athletes are asking for one year-round sport. If an organization does not offer it, they travel elsewhere, presumably to a place that takes the sport "more seriously."

But what if truly respecting the total athlete, including their health and recovery, will ultimately help them reach the highest level in their *focus* sport?

For a young athlete who loves one sport, I think it is ideal for them to play something else as well. Encountering a wider variety of mental and physical stress is a good thing for anyone. A break will do wonders for perspective and physical ability. Or, to put it in more marketable terms;

What if gaining The Edge on the competition has to do with staying active but shifting gears, experiencing a different role (possibly not the star), and generally having a rhythm to the year? 

Really, I keep saying that the next "Big Thing" in sports performance is to truly, like REALLY, optimize and respect recovery rather than just giving it lip service.

But let's say the child, coach, or parent is still not convinced on the value of another activity. Do we strong-arm them into it? No way!

Being a single sport athlete can be done poorly and can be done well.

Single-sport athlete done poorly looks like playing with intensity 4 seasons per year. Leagues, tournaments, showcases, you-name-it, YES to all've it. Let's fire it up and be perpetually ahead! And if there is a week off, let's train twice per day, three, no, four times as hard!

Going hard in the sport year-round is not advantageous. Again, going hard in the sport year-round is not ideal. A critical part of dominating a sport may indeed mean taking a (relative) break from that sport.

Going hard year-round by no means guarantees a better athlete and greatly increases the likelihood of injury. 

Ironically, I've also seen Single-sport athlete done poorly look like sitting around for three months playing X-box. Both of these extremes result in sub-optimal performance at best.

Single-sport athlete done well involves:

-Identifying a peak season or event(s)

-Carefully planning a build up to it

-Paying great respect to the stress-recovery process

-A great deal of moderate-intensity deliberate practice

-Filling the off seasons with ancillary activities that specifically match the needs of the athlete to the demands of the sport. May I suggest a focus on targeted resistance training and conditioning as your "off season sport?"

An example:

My sons have caught soccer fever. The free time once reserved for fishing, basketball, flag football, biking, swimming, or practicing flips in the back yard is now ALL filled with juggling, playing small-sided games, arguing about small-sided games, soccer practices, and actual league games.

Two of the three of them have decided on one sport. I'm happy for their zeal. They can get away with it since they are still relatively young. But I suspect it will not last. If they don't want to play other sports, I will attempt to sporadically distract them with many serious and structured training techniques such as mountain biking, hiking, swimming, and playing obstacle course. Later I will encourage them to hit the weights specifically in ways that support soccer.

I hope that they will understand the process of consistent effort and recovery.

I hope they will buy in to the idea that you can get better for soccer EACH DAY without playing soccer every day. 

I hope they will learn the value of building resiliency, strength and power with training as a tool to improve toward soccer without involving the exact same physical stresses of the sport.

I hope they will keep having fun, learning to enjoy the process of working toward a great end, and building life skills that transfer beyond the field.

But that all may be a hard sell, coming from their dad, since dads rarely know anything ; )

More on this HERE with the Wager Brothers at GoWags Baseball.

Risks of being a single-sport athlete (presumably) DONE POORLY
  1. Adult Inactivity: A study by Ohio State University found that children who specialized early in a single sport led to higher rates of adult physical inactivity. Those who commit to one sport at a young age are often the first to quit, and suffer a lifetime of consequences.
  2. Overuse Injury: In a study of 1200 youth athletes, Dr Neeru Jayanthi of Loyola University found that early specialization in a single sport is one of the strongest predictors of injury. Athletes in the study who specialized were 70% to 93% more likely to be injured than children who played multiple sports!
  3. Burnout: Children who specialize early are at a far greater risk for burnout due to stress, decreased motivation and lack of enjoyment


Interview with God

Yesterday I came across this video at The Onion.

The first few seconds of the video were perfect and made me LOL. The smug human with his fancy haircut and suit, is going to make use of his special connection with the Big Man upstairs. He is giving us the privilege of being a spectator as God is put in the dock.

But then I quit laughing. The video brought up a few memories that hang in the back of my mind even now.

The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man, the roles are quite reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge; if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty, and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that man is on the bench and God is in the dock.” 

C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics

As a boy with an active imagination, I spent a lot of time in my bed at night wondering about the big questions like what happens when a person dies and what it would be like to meet God. I would literally become dizzy trying to truly comprehend things that I heard in science class or in church, like what an expanding universe or time eternal might mean.

And now, having accrued 40 years of life experience and some knowledge, these things still hurt my head.

I'm not claiming to be an expert.

My credentials include watching what's happening around me for 40 years. That, and I've sat through two Bible studies on heaven and the afterlife. Over the years I have read a few books by Randy Alcorn and nearly everything by CS Lewis, some of it twice. I've read Rob Bell's Love Wins and Francis Chan's response to it. I've read a few New Testament scholars who dissect the Bible like a forensic anthropologist. I've read the atheistic/materialistic perspective and, quite honestly, find that the most terrifying.

It all still hurts my head. And even now I find it difficult to keep in mind that this video is satire.

What The Onion got wrong, I believe, is the type of fear they portray. I think they should have shot for a respectful fear, not wrath and outright fright. I do believe in a judgment of some sort. Jesus spoke a lo about this and indicated that many of the religious insiders will be surprised at how they are judged.

Imagine what it would be like to experience a blinding flash of all of reality, as if seeing through the eyes of God. I think the feeling would be of great love and peace on Gods end, and much regret on ours. But I do find it likely that all we have to say for ourselves may sound something...This is not satire.

"I understand. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Thank you."


Everything What's Wrong of My Foot

This caricature of things heard and witnessed in physical therapy was inspired by this. Most of these are not quotes, and no one person said all of this. But, they...were... 

Most physical therapists will get this. Others...maybe not.  

 - - - - - - -

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The pain is the worst when I walk and it's most severe when I sit for too long.

And I don't want to keep taking Advil to just masquerade the pain.

And the doctor said there is some arthritis in there but he doesn't want to go in before I can't stand it.

And I'm using essential oils and some other nature rubs because that costs less than the gym.

And I didn't have time for my exercises so I laid on the heating pad.

And the doctor said it's the most arthritic joint he's ever seen [Heard approximately once per week].

Well that's hard to do and why are you having me do exercises that I can't do well?

And it just needs cracked and put back in alignment.

And it's just tight in there and needs to be stretched.

Because it sounds like rice crispies when I move it in circles.

And taking them as directed made me constipated so I don't need to sit on the toilet anyway.

And my meridians are blurred through that area, which manifests in sensitivity of the fourth toe.

It was waking me up in the night but now I'm doing better with not sleeping.

And I already had 56 visits at Drayer (physical therapy) and the foot feels about the same.


An amazing save

He is fouled in the box with less than one minute remaining and the City Islanders down 2 to 3. The crowd of five or six hundred fans (my unofficial estimate) rises to their feet. FNB Stadium and all of City Island falls silent as he places the ball on the mark and lines up for the kick 12-yards out from the goal.

He hesitates, approaches, and unleashes a powerful blast. The ball rockets toward the goalie, over the goal, above eight rows of fans behind the goal, across a section of sidewalk, and finally put to a stop by a large sign hanging over the Socceritaville Bar.

Not even close.

The game winds down in less than a minute. City Islanders lose.

He stands alone then squats down near midfield, facing an empty section of the stadium near the Harrisburg Senator dugout. The opposing goalie gloats with his teammates, mocks a few Harrisburg players and fans, and runs out to mid field. He pats the lone Islander on the back, rubs his shoulder and reaches down to shake hands.

He's still squatting with a painful countenance. Maybe he will collapse and cry. Maybe he will dislocate the gloating goalie's right arm and beat him over the head with it.

He reaches out, shakes the goalies hand.

Fifteen minutes later, a group of young fans collects autographs at the edge of the field. I see the painful look slowly approach the exit. He stops, says "Hello...yes...thank you," while signing a dozen signatures. The painful look returns as he faces the locker room. He begins walking away from the crowd.

My friends son runs him down from behind, holding up a water bottle to be signed. I want to step in.

"Trav, not him! Let him go."

But I was too late

He who missed the penalty kick is a bit startled, pauses to see what is tapping at his elbow. I'm waiting for the snap.

But instead, another save.

"Yes. Of course. You're welcome."

I know nearly nothing about Craig Foster, what kind of son and teammate and player he is, or where his career has been or is headed. I don't know what the May 9th game meant to him or to the City Islanders. But I'm sure that he will be well, wherever life takes him.

And that's what I hope to remember about the game tonight.

But you, be sober-minded in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your work.   2 Timothy 4:5


Hats off to the Ground

Sometimes I see the world in GRFs. No, not GIFs, but Ground Reaction Forces.

I see the grocery store floor pushing into pummeled blue flip flops. There is an impulse traveling through the feet, ankles, and up to the knees. They are not going to last.

I see a battle happening between asphalt and rubber as the bus merges off the highway, dozens of lives utterly dependent on nothing less than a perfect tie.

I see the linoleum floor deliver a blow that far exceeds the tensile strength of my coffee cup. This necessitates other GRF as I make my way toward the broom and dustpan.

Image result for foot ground reaction forceBut of course, athletic fields and courts are my favorite places to hunt GRFs. Nearly every feat of grace and power begins and ends with an astronomical GRF, usually through the ball of the foot.

Not a GRF, but of a GRF.
The far majority of sports and much of everyday life is about friction and triple extension of the hip, knee, and ankle through the ball of the foot. This moment in time garners little attention compared to the events that take place shortly thereafter. But the place where the ground meets the ball of the foot is where it all begins in a wondrous feat that raises GRFs from dead earth.

That 90 mph fast ball up and in, the earth shaking dunk, the nailbiting triple axl and the sick bicycle kick...all awesome displays of ground reaction force through the forefoot.

What Is the Purpose of the Semicircle in Basketball?

The ground gets so little credit. I mean, go ahead and try timing Usain Bolt in 100 meters on the beach where sand swallows his GRFs. Try having Mark Trumbo go to bat, even in short porch Camden against the worst pitchers, while standing on marbles. Rodeo clowns mocking ferocious snorting bulls in water are not remotely impressive.

You go ahead and try cutting to the hoop on a dusty hardwood floor, hitting the brakes in an ice storm, going for a deadlift PR in soggy grass, getting out of the shower, or any other activity where the GRF suffers a loss to the applied force.


Maybe you want to generate some large GRFs yourself, or you're interested in leaving a trail of lesser GRFs with efficiency over long distances. Then you need to work on generating force in triple extension, under extra loading, over a broad range of motion, and in various directions and speeds. You need to achieve proper joint alignment and core stability in order to fully acquire and direct what the ground will grant you. Get off the fitness contraptions and machines, and spend some time on your feet.

But for now, let's all give a great round of applause to The Ground!
Without dependable, quality, and generous GRF, most activities of daily living are nearly impossible, and all of our hard-earned speed, size, and power only works against us. Life as we know it loses it's marvel.

So next time you see that spectacular cut, leap, dive, strike or throw, take a moment to stare at the ground and appreciate the preceding time and place from whence it came.

What? Is it only me?