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The Case Against Locking Youth Athletes Into One Position

By Nelson Gord, Next College Student Athlete Team Edition, 09/27/18, 12:00PM CDT

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It’s difficult to predict a young athlete’s physical development, so have them play multiple positions

A good way to oversee this process is to ask kids which position they love playing and which ones they are curious about and start mixing up lineups. This can also prove to be lots of fun for the team.

Letting youth athletes play multiple positions isn’t just about long-term development, it can be a lot of fun, too.

Talk to enough college coaches these days about what kind of athletes they’re recruiting and you’ll likely pick up that, more than ever, coaches like when their recruits have a background from multiple sports.

This may not be common in some sports that tend to specialize very early, but it’s becoming more of a trend across the board. But even for early specialization sports, like soccer and hockey, there’s something that coaches can do to help improve young athletes’ skills: Don’t lock them into playing the same position.

FOCUS ON THE FUNDAMENTALS

There are several reasons for this, and most of them center around focus on teaching fundamental skills and boosting long-term development. Perhaps the biggest reason for having kids play multiple positions is the fact that it’s very difficult to predict a young athlete’s physical development. While a kid can be the biggest, fastest player on the court at 10, there is a very good chance that won’t be the case by the time they’re trying out for their high school team.

By pigeonholing big kids to play center for a basketball team, for example, it may hinder the dribbling and playmaking skills they will need to play guard in high school.

TEACH THEM HOW TO PLAY, NOT JUST TO WIN

The main goal of cycling players through positions is to teach them how to play the right way and not just how to win. This prepares them better for success regardless of when their growth spurt finally arrives. Players who play multiple positions are not only more versatile and more useful on a roster but the process of working through an unfamiliar position teaches them to train with intent and get comfortable with problem solving.

CARSON WENTZ, A BETTER QB BECAUSE HE PLAYED SAFETY  

The process of cycling through positions can also teach standout players to have more respect for other roles and positions. After, all, it’s pretty rare to excel at all position on the field or court. A good way to oversee this process is to ask kids which position they love playing and which ones they are curious about and start mixing up lineups. This can also prove to be lots of fun for the team.

At ESPN, No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Deandre Ayton talks about how his desire to play the guard position — even when he was the tallest one on the court — helped develop his unique skills. At The Players Tribune, NFL quarterback Carson Wentz talks about how playing safety in high school allowed him to understand pass coverages better. Both benefited from mixing things up and so can other youth athletes.

ABOUT NEXT COLLEGE STUDENT ATHLETE TEAM EDITION

NCSA Team Edition™ has quickly become the market-leading team recruiting platform because it recognizes and supports the crucial role club and high school coaches can play in the recruiting process. This free, easy-to-use software gives coaches an efficient way to monitor and guide their athlete’s recruiting efforts while giving athletes much-needed education and exposure with access to NCSA, world’s largest and most successful recruiting network. Every year, more than 35,000 college coaches across 34 sports use NCSA to find, evaluate, and recruit athletes for their teams. All club and high school coaches who want to help their athletes win at the recruiting game can start their free account now at www.ncsasports.org/team.

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