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Multi-Sport Participation Enables Youth To Learn More About Themselves

As co-founder of Respect In Sport, Wayne McNeil’s mandate is to help kids to recognize uncomfortable and even dangerous situations in order to help eliminate bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination from sport, instead creating a global culture of respect. McNeil believes that the multi-sport experience can play a role in helping to make this happen.

“I always look at things based on the work that we do in the context of making sure kids are safe, psychologically safe,” McNeil explained. “So I think that having a multi-sport experience can only serve to further that purpose, give you all sorts of opportunities to be with other kids in other environments and also different leadership styles.”

Kids who sport specialize at a young age won’t have the same life experiences and children who encouter a broad spectrum of sporting experiences. They may remain under the tutelage of one coach for many years and all year round.

Along with the physical benefits of the mutli-sport experience – greater all-around muscle development, the chance to fill varying roles in a team concept - those who participate in a number of youth sports will encounter a variety of experiences and the opportunity to learn from a litany of different coaching approaches. This mixture of life experiences will also enable them to more easily recognize when a situation doesn’t feel right.

“I think the biggest part of the multi-sport participation is the psychological side of things,” McNeil said. “Getting to work and enjoy sport with different people and different contexts . . . with different coaching.

“When you have that experience, you can start rationalizing, hey was that a good coach? Was that a bad coach? Is this a good environment? Is this a bad environment? It gives you a little bit of a comparative. It helps you to perhaps look at things and (decipher) what’s normal and isn’t normal.”

As well, there are life lessons to be learned from each sporting experience. It could be working together with other teammates on a soccer pitch, to being all alone to face the challenge of individual gymnastics competition. Each experience will help a child grow and discover more about themselves.

“I played a lot of sports,” McNeil said. “I would say none of them well. I’ve had a pretty varied experience across the sports spectrum. That experience for me – I would call it a holistic experience – has been wonderful, because it gives me a sense of understanding what’s behind an individual sport, what’s behind a team sport and the ups and downs of that.

“It’s phenomenal to be able to participate in a team environment and then in an individual environment. The mindset is so different. The coaching and the environment is so different. To have that broad spectrum - again I get back to the fact that the more knowledge you have, you can sort of normalize situations. It’s to your advantage to have that broad spectrum.”

The best golfer might only be able to play a supporting role on the basketball court. But in each instance, there are benefits they’ll gain from these vastly different sporting experiences.

“You can’t be phenomenal at every single sport. So the more sports you play, it would seem to me you’re going to get a broader spectrum of the potential for leadership skills and empathy and be able to cross those emotions and understandings as necessary given whatever sport you’re participating in at the time.

“I really do not see a downside in multi-sport participation.”

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