The football season ends, you reflect on your wins, your losses and the way your team grew. You say goodbye to your seniors, and your mind shifts, almost without transition, to your future. You’ve identified your promising lower-level players and you’re making plans for returning role players to step into starring roles.
But if you want to do what’s best for your team and your individual players, you say goodbye for a little while and send them off to play another sport for the winter, and maybe even the spring.
You may have heard the stats that should make you encourage your players to play other sports; over the last five years, 88% of players drafted into the NFL were multi-sport athletes in high school. You may have heard how Nick Saban, Urban Meyer and Brian Kelly put multi-sport athletes at the tops of their recruiting boards.
Clearly, the individual athletes benefit from participation in multiple sports. And your program will benefit not only from the improvements in your players’ athleticism, but also from improved physical health and, in a lot of cases, an improved understanding of what it means to be a great teammate.
Which Sports Provide the Greatest Benefit for Football Players?
Winter provides limited opportunities for participation in other sports, and Track & Field, along with basketball, are most popular among NFL-caliber football players. How, exactly, do these sports, along with wrestling, help your players?
In track, your skill players and your linemen can benefit equally. The short indoor sprints will help your running backs, receivers and DBs develop the kind of burst speed that mirrors most of the running they will do on the football field.
For linemen, there may be no better off-season conditioning than throwing. According to trackingfootball.com, 100% of the top linemen projected for the 2019 NFL draft were multi-sport athletes in high school, and 70% of them had “very impressive” shotput or discus throws in high school. Instead of simply lifting weights, throwing workouts focus on developing explosive leg strength, and core exercises are designed to simultaneously improve the balance and coordination necessary to throw in competition.
If your school has a wrestling program (a casualty of budget cuts in many districts across the country), every athlete of every weight can benefit from the sport’s value on leverage and quickness. And the handfighting that wrestlers learn helps receivers who are trying to get off the line of scrimmage as much as it helps the linemen engaged in hand-to-hand combat play after play.
Improved Physical Health?
Many coaches worry that they will send an athlete away from their carefully supervised workouts only to see them tear an ACL on the basketball court or suffer a nagging muscle tear in track. But the reality is that you can’t control injury in any environment. But by playing other sports, your athletes focus on different muscle groups than they use during the football season, and in doing so, give their overworked muscles time for rest and recovery.