Cutcliffe: Sport specialization creates kids that are not as mentally mature

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Sunday July 30, 2017

David Cutcliffe looks for recruits who have multi-sport backgrounds, and he says they tend to be better prepared for the mental part of the game.

As sports become year-round at the youth level and specialization teaching becomes its own industry, Cutcliffe is part of a growing number of coaches speaking out on it.

“In sports, the less sports you play, the less lessons you have,” he said on WFNZ in Charlotte. “We have specialization, and we’re creating kids that are not mentally as healthy or mature, because all they’ve been told is ‘Volleyball is all you’re gonna do.’ It’s a different kind of immaturity.

“You need to play ‘em all. A good athlete should play everything they can until they’re forced collegiately or some other manner to choose. That will be in my book one day.”

He pointed to Duke senior cornerback Bryon Fields Jr. At 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, he’s not a big guy — even less so in high school.

But Cutcliffe saw him play basketball.

“In a lot of people’s eyes, he wasn’t big enough, fast enough. All he’d do was beat you,” Cutcliffe said. “But I watched him on a basketball court, and I knew. I immediately knew. He was the most competitive kid on the basketball court. Same thing on the football field.”

Duke has started to bring in some of its highest-rated recruiting classes in the star era, and a multi-sport background is something Cutcliffe wants his assistants to look for.

“I am going to pay attention, and our coaches know I want multi-sport athletes,” he said. “ I love that. Peyton and Eli Manning were multi-sport athletes. If anybody could have focused on one sport, it would’ve been them. Archie Manning was a three-sport athlete and played more than one in college.

“I think it’s healthy. I think it’s important to quit putting mental pressure on kids in eighth grade to make decisions to go earn a scholarship. If you’re good enough, stuff is going to find you. But play for the joy of competition in sports.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to