If you seek long-term athletic development, the idea that a ten-year-old athlete absolutely “is a” Quarterback or definitely “is a” lineman or “is a” Wide Receiver has some unhealthy and counter-productive consequences.
Certainly, in the present, you can see athletic ability and size. With this information, you can project what that athlete might become –a specific football position down the road. But, from ages 8 to 16, there are so many variables and obstacles ahead—you must have balanced plan for long term athletic success.
Additionally, the benefits gained from diversifying positional play or cross training with multiple sports, help accelerate, not stall, long term athletic development.
Thus, we suggest parents should never pin their kid’s destiny to a single, specific position or sport.
Instead – diversify – even within the sport you play.
- Become a Total Athlete: All football playing positions (and for that matter, all sports) contribute to the overall athleticism of the athlete. If you want athletic success, take a comprehensive approach to athletic development. Give your child the chance to learn to run, throw, catch, defend, block and tackle. For that matter, make sure he can bat, skate, shoot and putt too! In all cases, those football specific and cross-sports will contribute to the athlete’s motor skills and long-term development.
- Have Comprehensive Knowledge and Skills: Quarterbacks should absolutely know the experiences and challenges of lineman, wide receivers, defensive backs – in fact know everyone on the field. When you can relate to the experience, you can adapt and lead. The footwork challenges of lineman, wide receiver and quarterback are all different, but they develop the entire athlete. So during the stages of 8 to 14 – play many positions.
- Cross Train: Similar sports like basketball, lacrosse and hockey have significant cross-training benefits. Each game is about triangles with slightly different circumstances. Those changes from basketball to hockey teach creative solutions for passing and team play – all derived because the hockey player is not “just a hockey player” but moreover an athlete that learned things from basketball that apply to hockey. Or, take the physical toughness and confidence of a hockey player that has some football playing experience. When watching hockey, you can probably identify the kid that played some football when the game gets rough.
- Great Physiological Changes: In 20 years, we have seen it hundreds of times. The heavy-set fifth grader hits a growth spurt and suddenly he’s the best overall athlete on the field, ice or court. In contrast, the skilled fifth grader destined for quarterback greatness flattens out. He/she does not grow, develop and sometimes he/she does not care as much as the other kids. This athlete sinks to the back – and does not meet the unfair and unhealthy expectations set on him/her in the early stages. In some cases, deciding the sports plan too early hurts development.
- Joy of Sports: Last but most important, doing a variety of things helps keep young athletes fresh and motivated. Rather than “10,000 hours” – practice and play with passion. Passion is the most important element to development and long-term success. It does not matter how great the coach or program. Make sure your child is loving it and with that, you are guaranteed success no matter what the end results are down the road.