Why Multi-Sport Participation Should Accommodate Non-Sport Activities


I can’t find much evidence to support this, but I swear playing a musical instrument made me a better athlete. Imagine the baffled looks I got when I’d show up to jazz band rehearsal equipped for lacrosse practice, cleats and all.

The cognitive benefits of playing the saxophone were obvious.  Research demonstrates that musical training in children is associated with heightening of sound sensitivity as well as enhancement in verbal abilities and general reasoning skills. You could say this helped me dissect fast breaks and communicate slide packages as our point defenseman.

Behaviorally, the preparation and focus it took to master my small role in a larger ensemble translated directly to team sports. And when I was front and center — say, for a solo or an impromptu challenge from a fellow saxophonist who sought first chair — I learned poise under pressure. I also made a lot of mistakes in both pursuits, figuring out how to navigate failure.

The connections become more difficult to draw when searching for the physical advantages of being a band nerd. Playing a wind instrument, in particular, increases your lung capacity and teaches controlled breathing. There’s also a lot of muscle memory at play. Finding the right combination of keys to hit the right note was not all that different from finding the tape on your stick for the perfect release.

Then there’s the fun factor. The more I enjoyed the arrangement, the better I performed.

We extol the virtues of multi-sport participation. The benefits also apply to non-sport activities.

I cringe when I hear about schools slashing their performing arts budgets. I will always be thankful for my well-rounded upbringing.

This column appears in the July/August edition of US Lacrosse Magazine. Don’t get the mag? Join US Lacrosse today to start your subscription.

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