Monday, August 09, 2010

One coach speaks out about specializing in sports

This isn't the first post in this space about reasons to encourage kids to play many sports - not just the one that a parent wants to coach or a child seems to have decent ability in. More like the third. Or thirtieth.

But just when you begin to think there's nothing more to say about early specialization, there's more to say. Roc Murray is baseball coach at Rocklin High School in Northern California. He's the 2010 California Coach of the Year as voted by the California Coaches' Association. (I take this to mean he had a better year than Phil Jackson and Joe Torre).

It's rare for a high school coach to take a stand against specialization, in part because when kids are specializing in the sport they're coaching it's great for their programs. Or so the thinking goes. I had a chance to speak with Roc Murray last week. My first thought: This guy is a lot less interested in his win-loss record (though his seems to be excellent) than in developing the young kids who comes through his program. My second thought: Too bad my kids never had a chance to play for Roc Murray.

Roc is dead-set against specialization, even for high school athletes and especially for the kids playing on his teams. He wrote a short article about why. "Playing only for one sport, and one team, and one coach, promotes the idea that if you want something bad enough you should disassociate yourself from all other contacts. This disassociation keeps players from gaining experiences that will enhance decision-making both on and off the field or court."

I have a new favorite team in California high school baseball.

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