The Importance of Varied Interests as an Athlete

“I do not like the idea of happiness- it is too momentary- I would say that I was always busy and interested in something- interest has more meaning to me than the idea of happiness.”

~Georgia O’Keeffe

 

I think that no matter who you are, or what you do, the statement of having “too much of a good thing” is accurate. Most people use this in reference to work or food, or even to some relationships. I think that now it is becoming increasingly relevant to kids’ sports.
 

These days, a lot of athletic kids spend the majority of their time focused on only one thing- their sport. They are practicing every single day after school and at night, they are doing strength and agility training when they don’t have practice, and they have tournaments every single weekend. I admire the passion that these kids and their parents have in pursuing something they love, but more and more often, I see that this is happening at the expense of having other interests and hobbies.
 

I was one of those kids too. I loved volleyball, and I loved training and being in the gym and working to be the best. I couldn’t get enough of it. One of the things that allowed me to maintain the love for the game, even after 20 years in the sport, is that I have always had a variety of interests completely unrelated to sports.
 

Growing up, I was very involved in piano. I was quite serious about it from when I was 8 until I graduated from high school. Practicing piano and going to recitals and lessons took up many hours every week. Reading, puzzles and board games also occupied my time as I am very interested in all of them. I love science, and would go to demonstrations or events at the local university to learn more. Even though I was extremely focused on volleyball, and was determined to go far with it, I had several other things to turn my attention to. I was obsessed with volleyball, but not to the point that it completely took over my life. I had different circles that I could run in, and it gave me a much more well-rounded and complete life.
 

Why is it Important to Have Varied Interests?

 

Avoiding Burnout

Keeping your focus on one thing, and one thing only, is great until you get burned out. There is only so much energy we can devote to one thing day in and day out until we just can’t do it anymore, and we shut down. It’s normal. For kids to devote every moment of free time going to practice, lifting, and tournaments on repeat, there will come a time that their bodies will start to break down from exhaustion, and they will get mentally drained. Sport is fun, but it is intense. Everyone, but kids especially, needs to be able to flip the switch every now and then, and do something completely unrelated to their sport.
 

Fresh Perspectives

I have often found that when I am really struggling with a challenge, taking a step away from it and doing something else makes the solution seem to jump out at me when I return. The same thing happens with sport. It is possible to train and train and train to figure out a new skill, but sometimes, simply stepping away and not thinking about it for a while is the best solution. Having diverse hobbies and interests gives us somewhere to turn to refresh our minds, which gives us a fresh perspective on a challenge when we return to it.
 

Appreciation

When we do the same thing every single day, it becomes normal and we tend to lose appreciation for what we are doing. In the case of sports, if we are able to take a break from the grind, and fill our time with different interests, we will develop a greater appreciation and love for the sport when we get to do it. The opportunity to be a part of a team is a privilege, and it definitely deserves to be appreciated.
 

Maintain Enjoyment

More and more often, we see talented young athletes leave sport before they try to go pro, and sometimes even before they play in college. I think a big reason this happens is burnout, as I mentioned before, but also because the sport isn’t fun for them anymore. When a kid is spending every moment outside of school training and competing, it will inevitably feel more like a job than like something fun. Sport should be fun and exciting for kids. They should look forward to going to practice and being with their teammates. Having different outlets to direct their energy helps keep that enjoyment alive.
 

When kids take sport seriously, it’s hard for them to want to do anything else. I think that it is important to take a step back every now and then, though, to explore different interests and opportunities. There is no reason for a kid to be burned out from sport at a young age. The chance to explore different things, and to be a kid every now and then, is incredibly valuable, even if we might not see it right away.
 

xo, Sarah

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