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Mixing it Up: The development of physical and mental versatility through participation in a range of sports

Thursday 17 November 2022


With so many of our pupils excelling in the sporting arena, whether in skeet shooting, horse riding, tennis or hockey, it is important that Queenswood highlights the importance of sporting versatility and the benefits harnessed through involvement in a range of different sports. This has been researched by professionals in the field, such as Côté and Hay, who highlight the influence sampling different sports can have in young sportspeople’s development of ‘basic identities, motivations, values, and beliefs about sport and physical activity […] to experience fun and excitement.’

The 2015 International Olympic Committee Consensus Statement, alongside the National Strength and Conditioning Association Position Statement from the following year, also support this view, in particular outlining the impact of a range of sports in overall long-term physical and mental development.

A range of sports, that utilise different muscle groups and have varied physical demands on the body, is crucial in helping young athletes to avoid injury. Repetitive use of the same areas of the musculoskeletal system can lead to overuse, and, subsequently, injuries, such as stress fractures, and even tendon and ligament damage. Therefore, participating in activities that facilitate the use of alternative areas and functional movements are certainly beneficial to young athletes seeking to progress, as it eliminates the risk of asymmetries and underdevelopment in other areas. For example, a student who excels on the tennis court, making use of their upper body and explosive movements, would benefit greatly from involvement in a sport such as football, where muscle groups in their lower body are used, and the chance to improve skills like endurance and stability is also a possibility.

Through working other areas of the body in these sports, it is also possible to avoid physical fatigue, thanks to the rest that is allowed for the specific muscle groups of the focus sport. This is particularly important given the age of the athletes at Queenswood, who are looking to continue participating and performing in sport.

Furthermore, it is crucial that young people are able to enjoy the sports they are involved in now and in the future, and so variation allows for mental rest and recuperation. Burnout is frequently seen in individuals who specialise solely in one sport from a young age, as they lose touch with the enjoyment aspect, and the focus sport becomes increasingly stressful due to expectations of competing, especially at a high level. This inevitably leads to a loss of drive and motivation, preventing young athletes from reaching their full potential. This can be successfully counteracted through involvement in a range of sports, as the opportunity to concentrate on completely different tactics and techniques, as well as to interact with different teammates and coaches, can allow for a mental break from the intensity of a focus sport.

In addition to this, the new life skills that can be developed through participation in a range of different types of sports is undeniable. While individual sports can help to build resilience, determination and decision making, team sports can progress communication, teamwork and responsibility. With an athlete participating in both disciplines, they are able to demonstrate adaptability and flexibility, alongside openness to change and time management skills.

The importance of sport in the development of young people should not be overlooked, not only regarding motor skills and coordination, but also considering the mental aspects as well. Queenswood is proud of the range of sports it offers, with all pupils actively encouraged to join in, whether they are in Year 7 or Upper Sixth. We will continue to highlight the advantages of participating in a range of sports, and other co-curricular activities, and we are excited to see all our students continue to flourish as they grow and find their path.


“Participation in multiple sports as a youth athlete is essential for developing the fundamental movement patterns required to build a well-rounded athletic profile.

The development of movement patterns and transfer of skills between sports is significant and as a result multi-sport participation by youth athletes is highly encouraged among many youth academy coaches. Research has also demonstrated that early specialization can actually impede athletic development in some cases, with burnout and overuse injuries common in these youth athletes who choose to specialize in one sport from a young age.”