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A fellow athletics coach said that he knew of a female coach that refused to train athletes that were boys, because they were potentially only interested in football and come cross country season they would be unreliable as Sunday races would conflict with league games. I must have looked a little shocked but he followed it up with 'and why would you invest all that time in an athlete if they were focused on another sport'. Admittedly he is a coach who produces a lot of talented and focused athletes who go on to compete at national level as seniors, but as a grassroots coach my view differs somewhat and I see cross sport training as beneficial to the athlete physically and mentally especially at a young age. If I can engage them into my sport then I feel I am doing a good job, but I wouldn't necessarily want them to be exclusive if they enjoyed multi-disciplines. Nor would I treat them differently in a session, if they missed sessions then obviously they wouldn't get as much overall coaching time as one who came to every session but I don't think I could intentionally be that exclusive. What are others views are on this perspective? Do you only focus on the talent and dedicated?
I myself would have to admit to preferring to coach more able players (though I try to prevent this showing during sessions) as it opens up a greater variety of sessions that they are competent enough to handle, but I am not a fan of the attitude of the coach you talk about here.
Early specialisation in a sport can prove detrimental in the long run as a person's athletic development is more one-dimensional. As an example, I coach one lad who is a boxer alongside his cricket, he hits a ball harder and throws further than anyone else in the group despite only making probably 70% of sessions. I do not believe this is a coincidence - but of course it could be.
There is no one answer to which side of the specialisation debate is better as there are success stories on either side, but assuming the individual is not overly disruptive and hampers the learning of others, all should be allowed to learn.
I would feel that this is especially true in athletics, where the crossover to other sports is arguably greater than in any other activity. We should not be so selfish as to act in a way that suggests that our sport is the only thing a person should be interested in.
My perspective is from a grassroots coach. I do understand that as you move further towards the elite level then more commitment is required to improve, but I believe a player can still show the adequate amount of commitment while playing another sport.
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