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Pat Fitzgerald On Specialization In Youth Sports

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Pat Fitzgerald (@coachfitz51), a PCA National Advisory Board Member, is the Northwestern University Head Football Coach. Prior to coaching, his College Football Hall of Fame career included twice being named an All-American, twice winning both the Bronko Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik Awards, and leading Northwestern to back-to-back Big Ten titles and a Rose Bowl appearance in the mid-90's.

In this interview with PCA, Fitzgerald discusses youth playing multiple sports versus specializing in just one sport. One key benefit of playing multiple sports is the ability to cross-train and develop skills that will translate to greater success. As an example he mentions that many youth football players have a hard time judging where the football is in the air, which can be remedied in part by playing baseball. Another example is the ability to work as a team, which is vital in football like most team sports, but possibly best learned from playing basketball. These sports also provide the additional benefit of complementary physical conditioning.

Not only do multi-sport athletes learn different skills, but they also learn to work with different people, which Fitzgerald calls “the hidden gem” of playing multiple sports. The ability to build relationships reinforces social standards that are sometimes lost on today's youth, who are more immersed in technology and social media than past generations. Playing multiple sports gives young athletes the opportunity to reinforce these relationship skills with many groups of teammates and coaches, and should be encouraged.