Patrick Mahomes can be looked at as the poster child for playing multiple sports throughout your high school career.
This past Sunday marked the final game of the NFL’s 100th season. The Kansas City Chiefs, led by QB Patrick Mahomes defeated the San Francisco 49ers 31-20. At the age of 24, Mahomes has already stapled himself as the best player in the NFL. The sidearm throws, the no-look passes, his weaving scrambles. Mahomes also has an uncanny ability to lead his team back from comeback victories. In the playoffs alone, Mahomes delivered 10 touchdown passes in just three comeback victories. In Tom Brady’s first career Super Bowl season, he accounted for one touchdown in three games.
As I watch Mahomes on most Sundays during fall and into the bitter winter, I see so much more of “just a quarterback”. What I see is Mahomes using abilities he adapted to by playing other sports in high school. He is reaping the benefits of what we should be preaching to our youth. We live in a world where the world seems overly obsessed with specialization in youth sports.
We see Mahomes randomly toss in a sidearm bullet in between the numbers, but I am sure somewhere in high school as a pitcher at Whitehouse High, I am certainly positive he worked on different release points while throwing a flaming 90+ MPH fastball. His no-look passes? Yeah, he was a point guard for his basketball team. His ability to read a defense? Well, he was a safety for his football team on the defensive side of the ball through his sophomore season.
All his poise on and off the field, facing the media, his ultra competitiveness, facing adversity, etc? That comes from facing the different pressures of many different sports and competing in games all the time across various sports.
We don’t see it too much in our little town of Sleepy Eye, although we do see it from time to time. Specialization amongst youth is the trend. It can be difficult to find a three-sport athlete around the age of fifth grade. According to the Aspen Institute State of Play’s report in 2019, the average youth athlete aged 6-12 played just 1.87 team sports. So, the majority of American children are playing under two of the main three sports.
Our goal as coaches, educators, parents, etc should be that we want to make them athletes for life. Nobody needs a 12-year old NFL, MLB, or NBA star. As a coach myself, I see specialization within the specialization, which is concerning. For example, “my son/daughter is only a shortstop. Or, my son/daughter is only a point guard.”
Growing through his days at Whitehouse High, Mahomes played defense for his football team because he just wanted to compete. He started as a freshman in baseball and basketball and made the starting roster for football his sophomore year. Obviously, with his dad pitching for the Minnesota Twins, he had the athletic genes we see at his display.
Mahomes was unselfish, in baseball at one point in his high school career, he had played all positions except for catcher.
He wasn’t just a football star either. In basketball, Mahomes averaged 19 points and eight rebounds a game. In baseball, over his career, he hit a tick under .500 and had a fastball that reached the mid 90’s and was drafted by the Tigers. He also threw 50 touchdown passes his senior season in football while rushing for 15 more.
He played football and baseball at Texas Tech University until his sophomore year so he could shift all of his focus to football.
Mahomes has said multiple times that it is easy for him to roll out to his left or right and throw off balance because all of his days playing shortstop.
The lesson I am trying to bring to light here is that playing three sports is anything but detrimental to your athletic development. If anything, it is a huge part of your development. You develop multiple skills that can help in multiple areas in all facets of your game.