Originally published: March 2023


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Whether you’re at the rink, on the pool deck, or by the ball diamond, you’ve likely heard the latest buzzword in kids’ physical activity: multisport. It’s an approach to healthy child development that encourages kids to try a variety of sports, instead of specializing in just one. More than ever, researchers, medical experts, coaches, and top athletes are rallying behind multisport. They want people to know that playing different sports is better for kids.

Let’s explore five key reasons for multisport and how you can support your child.

5 reasons why multisport matters

  1. Multisport builds physical literacy—the skill, confidence, and motivation to take part in physical activity for life. It helps kids become well-rounded athletes.
  2. When kids try multiple sports, they have more chances to figure out which activities they most enjoy. This is important because people tend to stick with sports they love as they get older.
  3. Multisport is a boredom-buster. It helps kids stay interested and motivated in physical activity. Kids who play just one sport are more likely to burnout or quit.
  4. By sampling a variety of sports, kids try different body movements and use different muscles. This reduces their risk of overuse injuries.
  5. Playing different sports in childhood is linked to athletic success at a high level. Even kids who want to ‘go pro’ later in life benefit from trying a variety of sports during their school years.

Multisport also comes with perks that are associated with physical activity more broadly. Taking part in physical activity helps kids make friends, develops their sense of belonging, and builds life skills like communication and teamwork. It can lower their stress and improve their mood, so they’re better able to handle life’s ups-and-downs.

How to support your child with multisport

Multisport doesn’t necessarily mean playing dozens of sports each year. It’s about trying different activities that make sense for your family. Here are some helpful tips:

Let your child lead. Above all, it’s best for your kids to direct the activities they’ll participate in. Help them brainstorm ideas for sports they’d like to do, even if they’re different than activities you might choose. Encourage them to follow their interests and to take part in sports that help them feel good and have fun.

Try formal multisport programs. Instead of focusing on one sport or activity after school hours, try multisport programs, like those that mix dance and yoga or lacrosse, soccer, and badminton. Talk to staff at your local recreation complex, community centre, childcare program, or summer camp about what multisport options they offer.

Switch sports by the season. Instead of encouraging your child to play a winter sport straight through spring or summer, change it up with activities that are better suited to the outdoor conditions. Ask them if they’d like to try tennis, baseball, or swimming.

Ask for a trial run. Some sport organizations offer free or low-cost opportunities for kids to try a sport or new activity for the first time. If your child isn’t quite sure about something new, find out if they can try it before making a commitment.

Get active as a family. Open up a world of multisport through informal family activities –keep the focus on having fun and spending time together. Try low-cost activities like playing frisbee or going for a hike. Toss a ball around in the backyard or head to a nearby school or community centre to shoot hoops.

Make time to play outside. Kids tend to move more and sit less when they play outside. Let them play in ways that make sense to them—they might kick a ball, dig a hole, or build a fort. These are all great ways to get physically active.

When to sport specialize

There may be a time in your child’s life when they want to focus on a single sport. Remind them that many top athletes credit multisport for their success at the elite level. One example is former NBA star Steve Nash, who used soccer and skateboarding to help him train—learn more in Steve Nash: The skateboarding basketball superstar. You can also watch other top athletes play sports they’re not known for in Change it Up, Canada’s national campaign to get kids and teens involved in multisport.

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