Single-Digit Soccer: Do players specialize in high school?

At national champion Ohio State, the answer is apparently not.

And this is in high school. In soccer, we’re asking whether our players should be specializing at age 8. From my research so far, the answer is surely not.

A high school sports blog has a good list of benefits from playing multiple sports and quotes on playing several sports from luminaries like Wayne Gretzky, Larry Fitzgerald and the ubiquitous Alex Morgan.

I’m not sure how to verify the “42 out of 47” stat. Is it Meyer’s first two years at Ohio State? The two most recent years? Ohio State did have 47 recruits in 2013 and 2014. Ohio State’s site doesn’t always list every player’s extracurriculars, so I was only able to verify these:

RB Curtis Samuel: Track.
WR Parris Campbell: Track, in a big way.
S Malik Hooker:  College basketball prospect.
OT Kyle Trout: Basketball and track.
LB Sam Hubbard: Considered college lacrosse.
WR Jalin Marshall: State champion long jumper.
CB Cam Burrows: Track.
RB Ezekiel Elliott: Four state championships in track in 2 1/2 hours.
QB J.T. Barrett: Basketball and track.
DT Billy Price: Field events.
WR James Clark: Track.

Other players:

2014 recruiting class

LB Raekwon Macmillan
WR Johnnie Dixon
ATH Marshon Lattimore
CB Damon Webb
OT Jamarco Jones
LB Dante Booker Jr.
DE Jalyn Holmes
OG Demetrius Knox
S Erick Smith
LB Kyle Berger
ATH Noah Brown
WR Terry McLaurin
DT Dylan Thompson
OT Marcelys Jones
K Sean Nuernberger
OT Brady Taylor
QB Stephen Collier
DE Darius Slade

2013 recruiting class

CB Eli Apple
CB Gareon Conley
LB Trey Johnson
S Vonn Bell
ATH Dontre Wilson
DT Joey Bosa
TE Marcus Baugh
OT Evan Lisle
LB Mike Mitchell
DT Michael Hill
S Jayme Thompson
DT Donovan Munger
WR Corey Smith
LB Christopher Worley
DT Tracy Sprinkle
S Darron Lee
DE Tyquan Lewis
OT Tim Gardner

That’s 47 recruits. Somehow, that doesn’t include punter Cameron Johnston, who played Australian rules football.

Also, “invited walk-on” Khaleed Franklin was all-city (Columbus) in basketball. Another invited walk-on, Logan Gaskey, played basketball and has a black belt in taekwondo. (At 295 pounds, that’s not easy.) Joe Ramstetter considered college baseball.

And from the year before, Pat Elflein was a distinguished wrestler and participated in track and field. Cardale Jones, another recruit from the year before, played basketball.

For comparison’s sake, I decided to look at a good women’s soccer program with a good website. Hello, Virginia:

  • GK Morgan Stearns: HS basketball
  • GK Kelsey Kilgore: HS and AAU basketball
  • D Megan Reid: All-conference basketball, track and water polo
  • D/M Meghan Cox: Starting kicker on football team; also played basketball, field hockey and softball
  • M Tori Hanway: HS lacrosse, basketball and track
  • M Morgan Brian: All-state basketball
  • F Kaili Torres: HS track
  • M Campbell Millar: HS track
  • F Mary Morgan: HS basketball
  • D Julia Sroba: HS cross-country and track

So that’s at least 10 out of 24, including a couple of the better-known players and one U.S. national team player.

Now if only we could find enough programs for the kids who can’t make multiple varsities.

(HT: John O’Sullivan)

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One thought on “Single-Digit Soccer: Do players specialize in high school?

  1. interesting, but I don’t think there is much correlation between football and soccer for a couple of different reasons. First, the skill level required in soccer is much higher than what is needed for football. Football players can begin playing in high school and still become a pro if they have the right type of athleticism. In soccer, that would be impossible.

    The high crossover between track and football is in part because track is seen as conditioning for football and in part because football is not a year round sport. Basketball is a natural crossover sport because of two reasons as well: culture and, again, the times of the year those sports are played. A football player who is NOT a multisport athlete probably raises red flags at just about any level, not just Ohio State.

    I am not a fan of specialization at a really young age, but I do believe that youth soccer players who want to excel to the highest levels should take the sport seriously from a young age. I think you can be focused on something without specializing in it. And by focused, I mean that a child that loves soccer should enjoy the challenge that playing with the ball presents. He can do lots of other things, but he must take his relationship with the ball and the game seriously. From a coaching and parenting perspective, these children should be treated no different than other kids who are not as committed — the points of emphasis are always on the human aspects of the game such as sportsmanship, work ethic, other life lessons…

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