Changing the Perspective: Coaches on Sport Specialization

Many coaches are out to answer the age old question, "Why don't football and other fall and winter sport athletes come out for track and field?"

Theres no secret the sport specialization is common amongst "big-ticket" sports like football, basketball, and soccer. On an athlete's side there is pressure to perform, to get a college scholarship, to move on into the draft, to make a name for yourself. All that matters is practice, performing when it counts, and that is the motivating factor for many athletes specializing in one sport. 

Here is how championship coaches in the state of Florida are working to combat sport specialization, bring more athletes out for track and field, and better an athlete's physical and mental capabilities so they are stronger athletes when they step out on that field come fall.

Use these tools to bring more athletes onto your roster or maybe bring a friend to practice with you. 

Educate on the Benefits of Track and Field

As track and field coaches, reach out to the basketball coach, the football coach, and their athletes. Educate them on how the skills their athletes will learn at track practice will be helpful towards them in the offseason -- that these skills will lead their teams to success. 

"Track and field is a sport that we use to condition other sports. We run, we jump, we do plyometrics," 1A . championship coach for the First Academy, Mo Robinson, said. 

Not only is this sport helpful in training foot-speed and strength, but it makes an athlete unique. When college coaches attend meets, they see talent, but they also have their scholarship allowance in mind. A double sport athlete can have an advantage in the eyes of these recruiters.

"When you're thinking about a kid going to college, what I do know is the NCAA college coaches don't want just the basketball athlete," Robinson said. 

Compromise With Their Schedule 

Often times, athletes will make commitments to club teams in their specialized sport. These club teams will have conflicting hours with your program.

Discuss with the athlete and with their club coach a way to work out a compromise. Maybe its two to three times a week a track practice and the rest are club practices. When it comes to a meet schedule, accommodate the athlete's tournament schedule. These are just a few ways to add to your program and get the training the athlete needs without putting pressure on them. 

"There are a lot of kids on the basketball team that once ran track and played basketball. Now they're playing basketball and think: I'll have to do this all summer," 3A championship coach for Miami Northwestern, Carmen Jackson, said. 

Being willing to work and compromise on an athlete's schedule can make all the difference in athlete turn-out for your track program. 

Ease Them Into It

If you reach out to other coaches, work with an athletes' schedule, and have the opportunity to see them compete, let them figure out what they enjoy. Throwing a linebacker in the 400m or 800m is a sure way to lose an opportunity for team points and for building an athlete's confidence in the sport. 

Communication is key. Talk with your athlete about what they want to pursue, maybe that means them getting a chance to try an event that they want to this week and then you, as the coach, putting them in your desired event the next. Communicate with them, their club coaches, their parents and you will begin to see a shift from sport specialization to a championship program.