The sports world today is seemingly becoming more specialized, with younger athletes choosing a single sport and playing it all year. But is that really the key to becoming a professional athlete?
According to the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, it’s clearly not.
30 of 32 (94%) of 2017 NFL Draft picks were multiple sports athletes in high school according to Tracking Football. https://t.co/Ei2h42qGjC
— Tracking Football (@TrckFootball) April 28, 2017
Additionally, everyone taken in the top 20 was a multi-sport athlete. According to the study done by Brian Spilbeler of trackingfootball.com, Jarrad Davis (No. 21, Detroit Lions) and Ryan Ramczyk (No. 32, New Orleans Saints) were the only “football only” athletes taken in the first round. The study showed that 22 of the athletes participated in track & field, 19 played basketball, two played baseball and 14 played two other sports in addition to football.
The issue of specialization is not unique to football. When John Smoltz was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2015, the pitcher bluntly said (H/T Nick Schwartz, USA Today) that “baseball is not a year-round sport” and attributed the increase of those playing year around to the higher rates of Tommy John Surgery, which he called an “epidemic.” It’s hard to argue. The human elbow was not designed to throw fastballs. It certainly wasn’t designed to throw them all year.
If nothing else, parents should take note of what happened on Thursday in the NFL Draft. When it comes to football, playing other sports (notably wrestling and track & field) can make someone a better football player. So, even if a scholarship and a potential NFL career loom as realistic possibilities, limiting kids to football is not a good thing. In this case, it’s hard to argue with the numbers.