College Adds Its Voice To Multi-Sport Campaign

sport event

Left to right: Kim Willis, Mark McGuire, Joe Siddall and Bob Duff of the Give And Go Sports campaign.

St. Clair is one of the sponsors of a new initiative called “Move At Your Own Sport”, which encourages children and young people to play and enjoy a multitude of athletic pursuits instead of striving to “specialize” in only one sport – and urges their parents to tone down their desire to push their children into a single-minded focus on a particular sport.

One of the chief agencies behind the promotional campaign is the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), which asserts that “sport specialization” can “prove to be a dangerous path for kids who are developing physically, socially, mentally and emotionally”.

The other organization behind the project is Give And Go Sport Education (GGSE), founded by former Windsor Star sports journalist Bob Duff and former athlete, coach, coaching instructor (and St. Clair grad) Mark McGuire.

Its mandate is a simple one: “We need to return youth sports to the mindset of the past, where there are seasons for sports. Skates are put away in the spring, and exchanged for baseball mitts or soccer balls or golf clubs, or all of the above.”

The initiative to encourage multi-sports play by young people has gained endorsements from a host of star athletes and former athletes, including such luminaries as hockey legends Bobby Orr and Eric Lindros.

On January 12, in the lobby of St. Clair’s SportsPlex, GGSE and the CMHA announced that a panel discussion of the topic would be conducted at the college’s athletic facility on January 29 from 2 to 4 p.m.. (Tickets available via the GGSE website,

That event will also serve as a fundraiser to complete a documentary film on the subject – the first of three, actually: one for general audiences, one for parents, and one for coaches and educators.

Joining Duff and McGuire in at the media conference on the 12th was Windsor-born former Major League Baseball player/sports broadcaster Joe Siddall. He will also be on the panel on the 29th, joined by local Paralympian Danielle Campo McLeod.

"The college and its Alumni Association are always happy to foster and publicize new research that has the potential to improve the quality of life of our community, especially its young people," said St. Clair President Patti France. "The fundamental philosophy of Move At Your Own Sport is, I think, exemplified in the experience of many of our varsity athletes, because almost all of them enjoy and excel in a number of sports. Our long-standing partnership with the local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association on a number of other projects and programs also led us to enthusiastically sponsor this latest initiative."

Siddall played every sport imaginable as a child, before becoming a three-sport varsity athlete in high school. He then won a scholarship to a Michigan university as a football quarterback, but emerged from his collegiate career as a baseball catcher who eventually joined the pro ranks.


sport issue

Still, he says, whenever he’s asked what his favourite sport was as a youngster, he replies “whatever was in season”.

He asserted that playing multiple sports provides life lessons in general, because the varied activities expose one to different people, coaches, techniques and experiences.

In contrast, he noted, specialization can lead to losing passion for the sport in question due to the physical grind and injuries, and to the mental monotony.

Kim Willis of the Windsor-Essex chapter of the CMHA picked up on that remark, noting that “physical activity is one of the best things one can do for one’s mental health ... but not when it leads to stress”, especially among highly pressured children.

McGuire said that “this is a ‘Made In Windsor’ solution” to this issue, given that most of GGSE’s board members and sponsors are local, coupled with the involvement of the local CMHA chapter.

sport issue

A description of the documentary on the GGSE website states:

The film explores the creation, evolution, and the dangers and disadvantages of one-sport specialization in youth sports and the solutions to the problems this has created.

At one time, sports were a seasonal pursuit. Hockey, basketball and other indoor sports were reserved for the winter months. As the skies cleared and the temperatures became more accommodating, skates and sneakers were exchanged for cleats, and baseball and soccer were the sports of spring and summer.

Slowly but surely, the youth sport landscape changed. Summer hockey blossomed. Conditioning camps, skating camps, stickhandling schools and other specialized entities were born, and hockey became a 12-month-a-year pursuit. Similar evolution took place in all youth sport.

Youth sports has become big business, and has gone from offering children a chance to participate, compete and develop emotional, physical and mental skills that will help aid their growth toward adulthood, into a fantasy factory, a virtual cottage industry designed to produce professional athletes.

By funneling their children into one sport, parents aren’t allowing their child to experience a normal childhood. Their friends are their sporting teammates, and by pursuing a sport at such a cost of time and energy, they aren’t able to experience and enjoy other aspects of life. They will never hold a summer job, and are unlikely to go away to a summer camp unless it is specifically related to their sport.

On top of that, the other children in the family are often left to feel alienated and unloved because so much of family life is devoted to the one child’s never-ending sporting pursuit.

Less than one percent of all youth sport participants will become professional athletes.

We must break that image in the minds of parents that they are breeding the next Sidney Crosby or LeBron James, and allow their children to experience all that sport has to offer them.

The mission of youth sport should not be to create robo-athletes pursuing the elusive goal of becoming a pro, but rather to teach kids how to work toward an objective and, in many cases, how to work together as a group toward that objective ... And also to recognize, at a young age, the value of regular exercise in pursuit of an overall healthy lifestyle.

While knowing that multi-sport athletes make for better performers and more well-rounded people, how do we get that message into the minds of parents who are convinced the only way to make their kid a hockey star is by playing all hockey, all the time? And how to we alter the thinking of coaches who want their players devoted to the team and the sport 24/7, 12-months-a-year?

We will do so by talking about the campaigns being launched by national sports organizations emphasizing the benefits of playing sports other than theirs, and through the voices of key players in the industry and how they look for athletes first and sport-specific stars second. And we will also show how playing a multitude of sports growing up makes for a more well-rounded person by speaking with people who’ve succeeded in both sports and in other aspects of life while following this blueprint.