Originally published: March 2023
The next time you and your teen head to their next hockey game, swim meet, or ski race, try asking them what they’ve heard about multisport. It’s an approach to healthy youth development that encourages teens to keep playing a variety of sports as they get older, instead of specializing in just one.
More than ever, researchers, medical experts, coaches, and top athletes are rallying behind multisport. They want everyone to know that playing different sports is better for young people. Let’s explore five key reasons for multisport and how you can support teens.
5 reasons why multisport matters
- Doing a variety of physical activities helps teens develops different muscle groups.This reduces the risk of overuse injuries.
- Multisport is a boredom-buster. It helps teens stay interested and motivated in physical activity. Teens who play just one sport are more likely to burnout or quit.
- Playing different sports is linked to athletic success at a high level. Even teens who want to ‘go pro’ later in life benefit from trying a variety of physical activities while they’re in junior high and high school.
- Multisport builds physical literacy—the skills, confidence, and motivation get active. It helps teens develop into well-rounded athletes, so they feel comfortable participating in a range of sports, games, and activities as they get older.
- When teens sample different sports, they have more chances to figure out which activities they most enjoy. This matters because young people tend to stick with sports they love into adulthood.
Multisport also comes with perks that are associated with physical activity more broadly. Getting active can help teens socialize, develop their sense of belonging, and practice life skills like communication and teamwork. It can lower stress and improve mood, so teens are better able to handle life’s ups-and-downs.
How to support your teen with multisport
Multisport doesn’t necessarily mean playing dozens of sports each year. It’s about trying different activities that make sense for your teen and family. Here are some helpful tips:
Put them in the driver’s seat. Trust your teen to choose and direct the activities they’ll participate in. Help them brainstorm ideas for sports they’d like to try, even if they’re different than activities you might choose. Encourage them to follow their interests and strengths, and to take part in sports that help them feel good and have fun.
Reflect on values. Talk with your teen about what they value when it comes to physical activity. While some young people value elite-level sport and competition, others simply want to have fun, build skills, or stay in shape.
Switch sports with the season. Instead of encouraging your teen to stick with winter sports straight through spring or summer, talk with them about changing it up. Ask them if they’d like to try activities that are better suited to the outdoor conditions, like tennis, baseball, or swimming.
Ask for a trial run. Some sport organizations and fitness clubs offer free or low-cost opportunities for teens to try a sport or new activity for the first time. If your teen isn’t quite sure about something new, find out if they can try it before making a commitment.
Try drop-ins. Encourage your teen to try multisport drop-in programs at school or in your local area. Many schools offer intramural sports and physically active clubs, and some have open gyms or fitness rooms where students can spend time after school. Find out if nearby recreation centres have drop-in options for teens, like fitness classes, ice times, lane swims, open gyms, or skate parks.
When to sport specialize
There may be a time in your teen’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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