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Growing up in England, soccer was everywhere. From school playgrounds to streets to weekend parks, there was no lack of opportunities to play the sport. However, despite the love for soccer, the majority of players in England, still played multiple sports.

My goal growing up was to play professional soccer. However, I would still regularly play cricket, tennis, badminton and basketball. Playing multiple sports aided my overall athleticism and motor development. It also kept me motivated and interested when playing soccer.

There is a trend of players focusing solely on one sport. However, recent studies have supported playing multiple sports and cross-training to increase speed, agility and build a more well-rounded athlete. Although the idea of playing a sport other than soccer may seem counterintuitive to your game, there are reasons it could improve it.

I’m not the only player who benefited from playing more than one sport. Most of the 2015 Women’s World Cup champion players were multi-sport athletes and multiple current English Premier League Soccer players excelled in other sports : Wayne Rooney (boxing), Zlatan Ibrahimović (taekwondo) and Joe Hart (cricket).

Here are a few skills that can be improved by incorporating additional sports into your soccer game.

  • Unique movement patterns: Youth soccer primarily functions in a horizontal plane in a larger area. Complementing that with sports that require a vertical plane (jumping) in a tighter area (such as basketball) can enhance athleticism and even decrease the risk of injury.
  • Forms of coordination: Controlling a soccer ball and changing direction at a high speed takes coordination. Tennis and lacrosse can improve hand-eye coordination skills, which translate to the foot movement patterns required in soccer.
  • Team vs individual mentality: Soccer is a team sport, so players rely on other teammates for success. Individual sports like tennis and golf, build mental toughness since the outcome is dependent solely on a player’s output. Mental toughness and accountability are valuable skills as soccer players move into higher levels of competition.
  • Unique coaching styles: A new sport will often mean a new coach and teammates. These new coaches and teammates will approach the game differently and give you different approaches and tips for improving your game.

Whatever you play it is important to have fun. Play hard, play with passion and success will be a natural byproduct.

Andy Hylton is a physician assistant with OrthoCarolina and also has a degree in athletic training. He has played professional soccer in the U.S. and England, and also played for Great Britain’s soccer team in the World University Games (Olympics for students) in Beijing, China. Andy treats all ages and orthopedics needs, particularly sports medicine injuries and conditions.

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