On Sunday, April 15h, Major League Baseball celebrated the 60th Anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first game as a Brooklyn Dodger. Every Major League Baseball player donned the number 42 on their backs as they celebrated and paid tribute to a man who broke the color barrier in baseball.
As I watched players explain what Jackie meant to them and their life, I began to think of his career and what he was able to accomplish. My mind started to drift to his career at UCLA where he was the first athlete in UCLA history to letter in four sports during the same year.
Jackie Robinson won a National Championship in Track and Field. He won two consecutive scoring titles as a basketball player. He also earned Honorable Mention All American as a football player. And yes he played a little baseball. Some even considered baseball to be his fourth best sport.
In today’s society, would Jackie Robinson been allowed to play all four sports. In this day of specialization where parents and young athletes make life altering decisions around the time of sixth grade, would Jackie have even played baseball?
Would a youth coach said to Jackie that your future is in basketball or football, don’t mess with baseball. Would a high school program allowed him to play four sports? Certainly, UCLA would not allow it today because they would not want to risk the possibility of an injury.
Playing multiple sports is still encouraged at a young age, but when an athlete gets to a certain age it becomes discouraged to a point where the athlete has to choose.
There comes a time in every athlete’s life where the choice has to be made, but are we making these choices too early? Data and statistics continue to explain that one sport athletes at a young age become burned out and some walk away from their sport before they reach their pinnacle.
We can learn so much from the way Jackie Robinson led his life. The lesson are endless. But one lesson we need to remember is that kids should have the opportunity to play as many sports as they can. Life altering decisions can wait. They can wait until they become clear. Don’t rush the process.
Every time an athlete steps onto a competitive field, there is something to learn and to gain. I encourage parents and kids to play as many sports as possible. Sports can build you into a wonderful adult.
Thank you Jackie for continuing to teach your lessons today.