The more competitive amateur sports becomes, the more specialization that happens at lower levels of play, particularly in high school. Athletes with their sights set on earning a college scholarship often decide to cut out the distractions of other sports where their futures aren't as bright.
So instead of moving on to another sport when the football season ends, they move into offseason workouts, building muscle and preparing for the next football season -- focused solely on football and nothing else.
In a vacuum, it seems like a sound choice. But if you want to be an Ohio State Buckeye, that strategy is worth re-considering. A review of coach Urban Meyer's recruiting patterns reveals that the vast majority -- almost 90 percent -- of football scholarships have gone to multi-sport high school athletes.
Although Meyer himself hasn't explained this methodology, there are some obvious advantages. For one, multi-sport recruits can be trusted to possess more inherent athleticism than a player who, for example, has poured everything into football.
Additional sports also give coaching staffs more opportunities to evaluate traits that cross over to another sport -- not just agility and speed, but also how they function as a teammate.
Sharing this for all you football players who take off the winter/spring to "work out." pic.twitter.com/tThJAo03eB
— Ohio Varsity (@ohiovarsity) January 18, 2015
There's also value in playing competitive sports year-round, gaining experience working at a high level and under pressure. Football specialists don't get that in high school -- they play football for three months a year and then spend the rest of the year lifting weights and practicing, while other athletes compete at a much higher level of intensity.
Another knock against specialization is that repetitive motions cause the wear and tear on young bodies that lead to greater injury susceptibility.
Of course, Meyer might also have a preference for two-sport athletes since he was one himself, playing college football at Cincinnati while spending two years in the minor league baseball ranks.