November 5, 2019

How to Cross Train

By Emily Buckingham, MS, ATC

Why Athletes Should Cross Train

As part of Youth Sports Specialization Awareness week, we talked a lot about the importance of playing multiple sports to being a well rounded athlete. If you follow us on social media, you’ve likely seen us share insights from sports legends like Kobe Bryant, Tara VanDerveer and Mark Cuban on this topic as well. When it comes to diversifying your skillset and becoming a well rounded athlete, cross training and participating in various physical activities is crucial.


Cross training is when an athlete participates in sports and/or activities that are not traditional to their primary sport. Cross training helps athletes develop different skill sets, muscles and movement patterns, which leads to a more well-rounded and versatile athlete. Cross training also reduces the chance of injury and burnout. No matter how much young players enjoy a certain sport, at some point they’re all likely to suffer from the too-much-of-a-good-thing syndrome. Change is refreshing, both physically and mentally. When an athlete plays multiple sports, they have more opportunities to learn how to interact with different teammates and coaches. Adjusting to varying coaching styles and a diversity of personality types is useful not only in sports but life. Bottom line: Teamwork is important in anything you do, and if you aren’t able to connect with people who have different ideas than you do, success becomes much more difficult. By trying more than one sport, athletes will have a better chance of finding one or two that they can play their entire life. This is a big key to long-term health.


Below are suggestions on how an athlete can add a different sport to his or her routine and gain mental and physical benefits. Mix and match any of the sports from both categories and merge the benefits. While this is not a comprehensive list, it provides you with some examples of how athletes can add a complementary activity to their routine and the types of benefits that come from it. Complementary sports should provide a different training surface – such as a turf field in one sport and hardwood court in another. This helps the athlete’s body to adapt and adjust to the new demands being placed on the body. Sports that mirror each other – for example throwing (baseball) and swinging (tennis) or require a lot of running (soccer and basketball) – should be played in different seasons to avoid overuse injuries. Other cross training activities, such as weight training and yoga, can be done in season with a primary sport. Engaging in these types of in season cross training activities also helps athletes with active rest and recovery, improves strength and agility, and reduces the risk of injury. Read more about including rest and recovery into your athlete’s weekly and yearly schedule.


Playing multiple sports can help athletes improve performance while reducing the risk of injury and burn out and is an important part of making health a competitive advantage. Check out the following recommendations and benefits of cross training in complementary sports. 


Emily Buckingham, MS, ATC is the current Athletic Trainer- In-Residence at the National Athletic Trainers Association. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Athletic Training with a minor in psychology from the University of North Dakota and a Master of Science degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in sport performance from Point Loma Nazarene University. Emily’s passion for athletic training has taken her on an adventure across the United States and given her the opportunity to work in almost every setting athletic training has to offer. She has enjoyed serving the spectrum of patients from youth, collegiate, professional, the weekend warrior and the geriatric. Her special interests include rehabilitation, biomechanics, concussion therapy and adaptive sports.

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