According to Tracking Football, a U.S. American Football recruitment and sports data analysis service, over 88 percent of players drafted into the NFL’s (American National Football League) professional ranks in 2018 played multiple sports in high school.
Multi-skilling an advantage?
Such a statistic makes one wonder why many coaches still encourage their young athletes to specialize in the one sport. Given the high percentage of multi-skilled athletes that progress on to the professional American football ranks it seems clear that their “extra” sports activities have not done their football performances any harm. In fact, the statistics may even hint that, through playing a range of sports throughout an athlete’s developmental years, they may well develop a range of sporting skills that put them at an advantage over single sport athletes.
Not surprisingly the sport most commonly played by football draft choices was track and field and, again, not surprisingly many of those were picked to play in running back, wide receiver and corner back roles (positions that require speed and agility). Over two-thirds of these young footballers participated in track and field at high school! The next most common sport played by football draftees was basketball. Over half the players drafted into professional football teams played competitive basketball in high school. Extraordinarily, there were a significant number of draft choices who played football, track and field and basketball during their high school years reinforcing the argument that playing lots of different sports is not likely to impact on your performance in one sport.
Other sports to feature in the stats were baseball, lacrosse, wrestling and tennis.
New coaching thinking?
The statistics provided by Tracking Football seem to indicate that most professional American footballers emerge from a multi-sport background. Is this an indication that junior coaches of sports like soccer, rugby, Australian Rules, hockey, basketball, cricket and track and field… perhaps even dancing… should encourage their kids to play a range of sports when they are young to ensure that they develop a range of athletic skills and qualities that may be useful in their final chosen sport? Don’t know. As a keen observer of soccer, I would guess that the full-field vision and understanding of angles that experienced basketballers develop, would be useful in the “world game” which is notorious at developing athletes with poor vision. Further study needed.