Tips from the Pros: An NFL Scout’s Take on Sport Specialization vs. Multi-Sport Players

Tips from the Pros: An NFL Scout’s Take on Sport Specialization vs. Multi-Sport Players

@1001RecruitTips recently caught up with a 10-year NFL Scout veteran for his thoughts on if prep players should focus on one sport or play multiple sports:

“We almost look at the high school model for football like it’s AAU basketball, that’s really what it’s become — it’s year-round now, it’s a specialized sport. Now, the really good players, it’s become year-round for them, focusing on one sport. I think what’s starting to happen with the AAU aspect of high school football is that guys are losing the instinctive part and it’s making them too mechanical.

In the past, the really great players were always guys who played multiple sports that taught them a variety of skills – hand-eye coordination, reactionary quickness, depth perception. John Elway was a great baseball player, he was drafted. Tom Brady too, he was drafted for baseball. Drew Brees was a highly-ranked tennis competitor coming out of high school (who actually beat Andy Roddick as a kid). You don’t see those type of guys anymore! What’s happening now, since it’s becoming so specialized with everyone getting these trainers and coaches — players are becoming more robotic and losing the instincts you develop from being a multi-sport guy. You’ve got to train your technique! Playing multiple sports naturally trains you, you’re never out of the training element. Your body is always in position to be able to adjust to whatever you need to adjust to.

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The instinctive part of the game is not what it used to be. They’re missing some of that freak factor, that freak factor we’re looking for is not there.  Guys are becoming very mechanical, very robotic. Don’t get me wrong– they’re still athletic, they’re still big, they’re still fast. But, playing those other sports helps to develop so many instincts. What I personally advise guys to do is yes, you can specialize in your position but I also encourage guys to go and play other sports too. Offensive linemen that have a wrestling background, that’s still extremely valuable. You’ve been taught leverage, you’ve been taught how to fight and get yourself out of an awful position. The same things with guys who are defensive players– go play basketball, pick up boxing or kick-boxing—you’ll learn more body contortion, hand-eye coordination, things like that.

That’s what the professionals do. These NFL guys don’t just sit around and work on one thing. They pick up other sports to stay in shape and they’ll advance themselves physically. A lot of NFL guys play tennis in the offseason to work on their lateral agility, their explosiveness, their quickness. A lot of these skills translate over to football and it keeps you instinctively tuned in. Improve in other aspects, diversify yourself athletically, build up a wider athletic portfolio. I like seeing guys with diverse portfolios, I trust them more athletically.

You’re staying competitive and you’re staying active. It says a lot COMPETITIVELY about guys when they’re constantly competing. Being a COMPETITOR, that’s something sought after by coaches and that will never change.

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A.P. Bah Bioh brings over 16 seasons of experience to 1,001 Recruit Tips, having worked for some of the best recruiters in sports, including three "National Coach of the Year" winners -- Urban Meyer, Frank Haith and Jim Larranaga -- along with 70+ NCAA coaches while at Elon University, UNC-Chapel Hill, the University of Florida and the University of Miami. Working primarily with football and men's basketball, Bah Bioh also spent time working with Olympic Sport coaching staffs including softball, women's lacrosse, fencing, golf, tennis and rowing. Bah Bioh has been part of numerous championships including the 2007 Florida Gator BCS National Championship; 2006 Florida Gator SEC Football Championship; the 2013 ACC Men's Basketball Championship and Sweet 16 NCAA Tourney run with the Miami Hurricanes that included both tournament and regular-season ACC titles; a 2002 UNC ACC Women's Lacrosse Championship and Final Four finish; a 2001 UNC ACC Softball championship and as a senior, was part of the 1999 Elon Football team that finished with a 9-2 record, one of the best seasons in program history. Over the years, Bah Bioh has worked with over 30 first-round draft selections (NFL, NBA, MLB) and numerous players who went on to sign professional contracts including Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Rex Grossman, Percy Harvin, Mike and Markuice Pouncey, Shane Larkin, Joe Haden and many more!