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Seven Benefits of Playing Multiple Sports - by Adam Eyal

From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."

Basketball is awesome, but don't you ever think about what it would be like to put your ball down once in a while and try out some different sports?

Now, science says that you should be doing exactly that.

Whether you decide to train hard in several different sports or choose one as your main discipline and keep the rest as hobbies, kids and adults experience many physical and emotional benefits when enjoying different activities. Don't believe us? Here's the evidence:

1. You will boost your whole-body fitness

weight training

This is closely linked to the fact that playing multiple sports reduces your risk of injury. By using and testing different muscle groups in different activities, you will tone and strengthen your whole body.

Very few sports and exercises work out the whole body at the same time. Most focus on a few muscle groups or certain body parts. Stand up paddling, trampolining and squash are just a few examples of sports which are great for all-round exercise.

However, taking part in lots of different sports can give you the same full body workout while injecting a bit of variety as well.

Spend a little time on basketball to tone your arms, then switch to rowing for a few days for intense shoulder strengthening, then try some cycling to build up your leg and thigh muscles. Each sport has its own fitness benefits, so try as many as you can to reap the benefits of them all.

2. You will avoid injury

basketball player

All people are prone to injury. It's easy to think that doing even more physical activity makes you more prone to getting hurt, but research has shown that this isn't the case.

Instead of over-using one set of muscles – as you would if you trained hard at one sport, at the exclusion of all else – you will balance out your whole body.

If you train at basketball, for example, there is pressure on your ankles and strain on your arms. Spending hours every day pushing these areas to their limits might end up pushing them too far, resulting in injury. However, if you play basketball one day, then step away from the court, try swimming the next day, you'll spend time alternating between your arms, your core and your legs.

By playing different sports and using different parts of the body, you're less likely to use any one muscle group enough to cause injury. Each time you start pushing too far, you'll be forced to stop and switch to a different activity. All in all, it will lead to you having a stronger game.

3. You will boost your brain power

Exercise has many different effects on the brain: all of them positive.

Aerobic exercise, like that which gets your heart pumping, has a positive impact on the hippocampus. This is a part of the brain which controls emotions, memory and spatial awareness. The result of this is that doing cardio workouts in the gym can actually improve your memory.

As well as improving memory, it's well known that exercise can help to boost concentration. A German study found that doing activities which require co-ordination can boost your attention span, which is really useful at school, while studying or in the office.

Intellect isn't the only thing that benefits from exercise: physical activity can also improve your creativity, too.

Finally, doing a few sports that you enjoy is a highly effective way to boost your mood. In fact, it's so effective that it's often prescribed as a treatment for depression and other similar disorders.

This just goes to show that doing a variety of different sports can have so many positive effects on the brain. Some sports improve memory, some boost concentration and mental focus, some enhance creativity, some have psychological benefits, and some do all of the above. Try plenty of different sports to ensure that your mind is getting as much help as it can.

4. You'll learn competition

Life is all about competition. Whether it's a big college football match or an interview for your dream job, life is a constant battle of trying to survive and excel amongst everyone else.

Sport teaches healthy competition, which is why it's so important for kids. You learn how to win, how to lose, and how to dust yourself off and come back fighting.

Playing several different sports can accelerate this process and make you a well-rounded individual. Team sports such as basketball, football and baseball teach you how to share success and, if you play at a high level, how to deal with intense competition, pressure and scrutiny. Single-player sports, on the other hand, force you to deal with loss and handle success on your own.

If you play a variety of sports and become confident with these different sides to competition, you'll find that there's nothing in life that you won't be able to handle.

5. You won't burn out

If you find one sport tiring, you might dread the thought of expending extra energy on playing several.

However, playing a lot of sport encourages endurance and stamina.

Choose sports which offer all-round workouts, circuits, interval training and those which need to be completed over long distances. Just as playing sport uses lots of different muscles and prevents injury, so it strengthens lots of muscles and allows them to train harder for longer.

Just remember to drink lots of water and stock up on carbs to give your body enough fuel to power through all the exercise.

6. You'll develop life skills

We've already seen how playing several sports can help you to deal with competition, but there are many other life skills which can be learnt through sport, as well.

Teamwork is possibly the most obvious of these, but alternating team sports with individual activities can help to encourage independent thinking. This is particularly useful when it comes to entering the world of work, as you'll know if you've ever seen a job advertisement which asks for someone who 'can work alone as well as part of a team'.

Playing different sports also opens you up to different personalities and leadership styles. If you join a sports team as a child and stick with it right through to adulthood, you will only get to experience a very limited number of coaches and training styles. However, joining several sports teams presents a range of different coaching styles, team dynamics and levels of expectation when it comes to training.

As if this wasn't enough to help see you through life's challenges, playing multiple sports will also teach you to communicate, socialize and adapt to change.

7. You will never get bored

If you fill your time by playing lots of different sports, you will simply never get bored! By filling your evenings, weekends and free time with sport you will be kept busy, which is helpful when you need a distraction from some of life's other challenges.

As well as keeping you fit, sport can keep you entertained – but don't forget to make enough time for yourself to relax and unwind, as well.