How do you help a student-athlete who’s struggling to keep all the balls in the air—literally and figuratively—as they balance multiple sports? As parents, the focus should be more on the mental side of the game versus the physical.
Dr. Patrick Cohn, mental training expert and sports psychologist at Peak Performance Sports, is no stranger to the multi-sport lifestyle. In school, he juggled almost every sport, from football to baseball, and now says that while some athletes still play more than one sport, the other multi-sport conundrum is when a student-athlete is playing for multiple teams.
“It benefits athletes to be in multiple sports, as long as they have good time management and they get enough time off to recover, do schoolwork, and have social time,” he says. “I think multiple sports help develop stronger, more well-rounded athletes.”
So how can you help your student-athlete find the right balance? Here are Dr. Cohn’s top seven recommendations for parents:
One of the biggest issues is when coaches are unaware that a student-athlete is playing multiple sports. Some sport seasons run right into each other. For example, cross-country running and cross-country skiing seasons often overlap by a week or two, leaving athletes zero rest time.
If coaches are informed that an athlete is just finishing a season, the prep for the next sport will likely change. Parents can communicate with coaches to help create a schedule that has the student-athlete’s best interests in mind, even if it means less playing time for him or her.
Student-athletes can’t always rely on their parents to create a path for them. Try to move away from phoning the coach or confronting them after practice when your athlete is having trouble balancing their commitments. Your focus should be on teaching your child how to speak up and advocate for themselvesas conflicts come up.
“I coach my athletes on how to communicate with coaches, because they’re scared!” says Dr. Cohn. He also points out that this approach will serve them better later in life. “If parents are always reaching out to coaches, it’s hard to develop those life skills of being able to lead or communicate.”
“I think every athlete needs one day a week with no practice or competition,” Dr. Cohn says. “They need the time to catch up on school and just relax and have a normal social life.” You can help maintain that balance by making sure your athlete—and their coaches—are aware of which day of the week is kept set aside.