So many people have talked about specialization in the past couple years. A lot of research has been done about the positive and negatives effects of specialization, and while there is evidence saying injuries are more likely for kids who decide to specialize, there’s also the other side of the coin that shows the benefits especially in recruiting.
I, for one, have always been wary of student-athletes who specialize in a single sport. I worry about those negative effects especially regarding potential injury, and I want kids to soak up as much knowledge from different sports and different coaches before making the decision to specialize. A choice to focus on a single sport shouldn’t come from a parent or a coach or a recruiter but from the student-athlete.
This week, I had the chance to sit down with Benjamin Russell rising sophomore Taylor Harris, who is a phenomenal softball player for the Wildcats but also was growing into a pretty impressive volleyball player as well.
Earlier this year, Harris made the decision to drop volleyball and focus solely on softball, and as part of our Inside the Lines Podcast, Caleb Turrentine and I wanted to know why.
“It was definitely one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever, ever had to make,” Harris said. “Coming into this year, I knew it would be a very important year for softball for me and the decision was solely based on myself. The Benjamin Russell volleyball program is so good and I loved it and I love the girls. Volleyball really helped me with my hand-eye coordination, the fast pace of the game. It really just helped me a lot on stuff that softball doesn’t help me with.”
That being said, Harris plays a year-round softball schedule. In addition to her time spent from basically late December to early May with Benjamin Russell’s softball team, Harris also plays travel ball during the summer and fall ball. She said there’s probably about four to six weeks during the entire year when she’s not involved in softball in some sense.
“I play such a heavy summer, fall and spring softball schedule,” Harris said. “It was beginning to be a lot of me trying to be the best that I can be at softball and volleyball and school and church. It just started to add up and I wasn’t able to be the best that I could be at everything.”
One of the big benefits of specialization seems to be a leg up in recruiting. With all her energy spent on softball, Harris is hoping that will help her achieve her ultimate goal of playing at the college level.
“Recruiting is a big part,” Harris said. “I’m also a pitcher so that takes a lot more time than what people think. I go to multiple lessons a week. It just helps me to better myself in each part of the game — understand the game more and really focus on things that I might not focus on if I didn’t have time or if I was worried about getting to volleyball practice or things like that.”
Not only am I the sports editor, I’m also a big fan of the kids I cover each and every day. I root for them and I worry about them the same way a mother would if it was her competing nearly every week of the year. So how does Harris keep from being burnt out?
“Many people have asked me if I get burned out,” Harris said. “No, I don’t because I love the game so much. I guess before you make the decision to solely focus on one sport you need to make sure it’s what you really need to do. If not, keep doing it all if you’re able to.”
Make sure to tune in to this week’s episode of Inside the Lines Podcast to listen to Harris’ full interview. She also talks about the importance of getting involved in youth sports and advice she’d give to others who are considering specialization as well as much more. You can find the podcast on all the TPI websites as well as on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.