Applied coachingYouth strength and conditioning

A second sport? The case for S&C

It’s pretty widely agreed that multiple sport participation is beneficial for children. Whether you term it “sampling” or “multi-sport athlete”, doesn’t really matter. Most discussions on the optimal development of athletes cite the benefits of multi-sport participation for reducing injury risk, improving hand eye coordination, increasing decision making development, improving physical capacities and the list goes on.
The problem is – if you do any coaching in sport, you’re probably aware that what is “recommended” isn’t what happens in the real world…

Despite the many expert statements, LTAD documents, and player development plans produced by the many sporting governing bodies around the world, the reality is that multi-sport participation tends to be the exception rather than the rule. One only needs to take a review of the many headlines on the rise of more severe injuries (both acute and chronic) in youth athletes to realise we have an issue. While educated and upskilled coaches may take a long term view and understand that in act, participating in another sport may benefit the athlete in the long term, many are still resistant to the idea. In reality, most (not all) coaches are reluctant to allow one of their best athletes to go and participate in another sport for fear of losing them to that sport, or the athlete suffering an injury and being unavailable for their own team/sport. Or the unforgivable sin – missing training to participate in another sport.
So, is this where S&C can fill the gap?
At the development (not performance) end of the sporting spectrum, strength and conditioning should comprise of exposing the athlete to a wide range of movements. Jumping/landing, squatting, pressing, pulling, hinging, lunging, bracing, even basic rolling and tumbling patterns! By exposing the athlete to these wide ranging movement patterns, we can increase movement competence and lay the foundation for future physical performance. In essence, we could utilise the time dedicated to strength and conditioning to pick up the slack due to the absence of another sport. I’ve heard of a few forward thinking sport academies utilising their “training” time to take their athletes to judo, swimming and even rock climbing sessions!

Despite some organisations (eg. The Premier League ) previously subscribing to the 10,000 hour rule and suggesting academies should be having these guys do a lot of skills sessions, these forward thinking clubs have opted to take the players outside of “football” to focus on their athletic development by experience alternative activities… even designing an entire training facility around the concept!

So here’s my thoughts on how S&C can become the “2nd sport”, by utilising time to:

  • offload the repetition of the same sporting movement patterns/physical structures by introducing alternative and novel movements
  • include components focussed on the development of skills (eg. hand-eye coordination, decision making through basketball)
  • develop physical capacities through alternative activities (eg. develop aerobic capacity via swimming, upper body strength through rock climbing etc.)
  • introduce basic gymnastic/calisthenic movements to emphasise body awareness/control/balance etc.

What do you think? Are your athletes multi-sport or specialised? Could they benefit from the inclusion of the “2nd sport” mentality in S&C delivery?
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2 thoughts on “A second sport? The case for S&C

  1. As much as I greed with the idea that it is beneficial to player in the long run when it comes to injury prevention but I am not sure if I am 100% supporting it. Many of my parents are putting their kids into multiple sports at the same time. I started to see exhaustion in players. Injury like ACL becomes a trend to my players. I believe that it would be more beneficial if they do one sport at a time. Injury can occur when the body is weak. State of concentration & focus are not there. Their performance started to drop. How is a 10 to 12 years old kid can have energy left when he or she left one sport’s practice to the next. Sometimes they came from a cross country or basketball game & headed to directly to their soccer matches in the same day. This is my concern about playing multiple sports at the same time. Unless I understand this article wrong. Good article though.

    1. Thanks for the comment and your opinion.
      I think with all things, the key is balance and total workload being sensible, I’m certainly not advocating multiple sport-practices in one day, rather spread over the course of the week. Perhaps I didn’t explain that in my article. As you’ve mentioned fatigue affects technique, speed, strength and decision making which are all likely to increase injury risk! So it’s important that youth athletes are given the opportunity to recover in between sport sessions just like adult athletes! I would agree that it potentially do more harm than good to be going direct from one sport training to another in the same day!
      There are some great infographics from Yann Le Meur which summarise some of the research on youth and injury risk, which I’ve linked below.

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