Plainfield North HS Coach Tony Holler's graphic used here with permission

Plainfield North HS Coach Tony Holler’s graphic used here with permission

This graphic has generated almost 1,000,000 shares on Facebook and over 18K retweets on Twitter, thanks in part to a blog called High School Sports Stuff. Kudos to that gentleman for bringing attention to this graphic and the interesting topic of multi-sport participation vs specialization in high school sports. But I would like to give credit where credit is due…this graphic was originally created by Plainfield North High School Coach, Tony Holler, in his attempt to get some football players to come out for the track team this spring. That said, he obviously had no idea it would become so widely popular and shared on social media. 

Of course the beauty of social media is everything can be shared and communicated immediately and this graphic is a great example.  However, as this graphic has made it’s way around the commentary has become more negative and some of it is down right inaccurate.  The information for this graphic came from some data Tony Holler and I were sharing about Ohio State recruiting (he and I throw around a lot of track / football data).  Below are the three tweets that Coach Holler used to create his masterful graphic. tweets tweets

Almost immediately the accuracy of the data in the recruiting graphic was called into question.  The data from Tony Holler’s graphic dealt with Ohio State’s 2013 and 2014 recruiting classes only – 47 players.  Additionally, the track and multi-sport information suggested in the recruiting graphic was retweeted by Ohio State’s own Director of Player Personnel, Mark Pantoni.  So the data used in the graphic was not fabricated. 

Disclaimer: The Ohio State University and Mark Pantoni in no way endorse this site or are affiliated with it in any way

Disclaimer: The Ohio State University and Mark Pantoni in no way endorse this site or are affiliated with it in any way

Mark Pantoni

The idea behind the recruiting graphic and the data in the above tweets was not to suggest multi-sport participation will make an athlete a better football player.  It was done to suggest that high school athletes CAN be multi-sport athletes and still receive football scholarships to Ohio State and other Division I schools.  By participating in other sports, athletes can open up other athletic doors.  They even can get noticed by football recruiters for being good basketball players or good sprinters or shot putters.  It happens. 

Certainly there is nothing wrong with the specialized approach and 7vs7, the skill camps, the combines and specialized athletic training.  It is all fine.  But when those in charge of the activities listed above tell parents and athletes that other sports are bad for recruiting exposure and a distraction is where I draw the line.  That message IS out there, loud and clear, I have seen it and heard it many times. Most involved in the athletic specialization fields are not pushing the anti-multisport narrative but enough are that it has created a problem in every area of the country. 

Coach Holler speaks to this point very well here – 10 Reasons to Join the Track Team

There is no data, that I’m aware of, that indicates specializing solely on 7vs7 or professional strength training programs during the off-season is correlated with receiving a football scholarship.  There is however a lot of data to suggest participating in multiple sports in high school, particularly at the varsity level, will NOT harm ones chances of receiving a football scholarship.

There is a belief that Ohio State’s recruiting data is not unlike virtually every other Division I recruiting class. The thought is Division I schools recruit the best athletes, right?  So…Ohio State’s recruits probably have the same athletic background as all the other schools…what’s the big deal!?

Well, the big deal is Ohio State’s recruits DON’T necessarily have the same collective backgrounds as every other school.  Said another way, Ohio State has more track and multi-sport athletes on their team than most other schools.  Ohio State simply has more prominent players with verifiable track speed and explosive jump and throw event performances than other schools, particularly those in the Big Ten.     

Keep in mind each of Ohio State’s three starting quarterbacks the past two seasons had athletic backgrounds in basketball and track and field.  That’s right, Cardale JonesJ.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller all played basketball and ran track for their high schools.  It didn’t necessarily make them better quarterbacks in terms of skill but it certainly didn’t hurt and maybe even helped develop their leadership skills.  Still, being three sport athletes did not harm their ability to get a scholarship or their development as quarterbacks. 

Recruiting Class Comparisons:

In 2013 and 2014 Ohio State recruited 48 players, according to various sources, and 33 of them had track and field backgrounds in high school.  That’s 68%…and 42 of the 48 players (almost 90%) either participated in track, basketball, baseball, soccer, lacrosse, wresting or some combination in high school. 

University of Michigan, recruited 43 players in 2013 and 2014 – only 18 were track and field athletes or 42%.  Their overall multi-sport participation was below 70%. 

Indiana University recruited 51 players in 2013 and 2014 – only 22 were track athletes in high school, 43%.

Florida State recruited 49 players in 2013 and 2014 – 24 were track athletes in high school, 49%.

Alabama recruited 52 players in 2013 and 2014 – 28 were track athletes in high school, 54%.

So in the past two recruiting years Ohio State’s recruits do not necessarily resemble everyone else in terms of track and field participation and multi-sport athleticism.  Urban Meyer and his staff deserve credit for obviously placing a premium on football recruits with solid track and multi-sport backgrounds.  Clearly not every head football coach and recruiting staff does.

I hope Tony Holler’s graphic continues to be shared and people continue to talk about this interesting topic.  My purpose was to clear up where the graphic came from and why the message is important to high school sports and athletes.