By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator
Speed skater Alexa Scott of Clandeboye, Manitoba first learned how to skate through figure skating.
The spins and jumps weren’t for her, though, so her coach suggested she try speed skating.
“I started speed skating when I was nine and I transitioned to the Manitoba provincial team when I was 13,” said Alexa.
Since then, Alexa’s athletic career has taken off. She has captured numerous titles over the years, including Sport Manitoba’s Junior Athlete of the Year in 2019 and just last year, winning the women’s all around bronze medal at the ISU World Junior Championships. She is now living in Calgary training with the national team.
But while Alexa began to focus on speed skating at a young age, she also had the opportunity to play other sports throughout middle school, like soccer, volleyball, and swimming.
In high school, she also did track and field.
From these experiences, there’s a lot she appreciates today about playing multiple sports.
Cardio, Agility and Focus
Alexa said skating is mostly a power sport, requiring a lot of leg strength. Depending on what distance you do, it gets more aerobic and involves more cardio.
When it comes to sports like soccer, it helped her build that crucial aerobic base. Plus, it helped out with agility.
“In soccer and volleyball, there’s a lot of quick stopping and changing directions,” said Alexa. “There’s a lot of benefits to the stopping and turning, especially for your knees.”
On the mental side of things, she noticed something in soccer and volleyball that helped her as a skater, too: the pursuit of the ball.
“You‘re goal oriented, because you’re getting down the court because there’s a ball there. And there’s not a lot of difference with that with speed skating, because you’re getting down the ice because the finish line is there. It’s that chase I think that’s a benefit.”
Building A Wider Range of Movement Skills
Depending on what sport you specialize in, your body is going to be training a certain way for that sport. But by doing other activities, it can help an athlete build a greater variety of movement skills.
“All sports work on different things,” said Alexa. “Volleyball is more of a power sport, because you’re jumping to hit the ball over the net. Soccer is more of a cardio sport.”
Alexa said the turning in one direction that comes with speed skating isn’t great for your body. But moving in different ways can help.
“You get a lot stronger on one side of your body than the other. So, having other sports, like swimming—swimming is a full-body cardio burn—it’s good for both sides of your body, equally. I think it made me a better athlete so that I wasn’t always just turning one way.”
Decreasing Risk of Injury
Although she participated in those other sports, Alexa said she wishes she could have done a bit more.
“I did do a lot of speed skating as a kid,” said Alexa. “I did a lot. I got to the point where I was very strong. My power muscles were very strong at a young age. But my body had not been programmed enough to stabilize my joints.”
Rather, the focus was on making her power muscles bigger so she could keep up and get faster.
But she experienced some negative effects.
“I got a lot of back injuries at a pretty young age, like 16. It was because my stabilizing muscles weren’t stabilizing. They were completely neglected in my body. Maybe if I hadn’t focused on speed skating so early in my life, I could have saved some of those injuries, because I would have developed some of those stabilizing muscles from soccer, especially like stopping and turning,” she said.
“I think if I did more sports in middle school, especially, I could have maybe limited how aggressive that injury was.”
Sport is largely about competition and developing as an athlete. But it should also be a genuinely fun and safe experience for kids.
“It’s supposed to be that escape from everything – you’re just out there having fun with your friends. It’s a way to build connections, not just put yourself in a box so early, like ‘I’m only going to do this one sport’,” said Alexa. “Especially an individual sport like speed skating, you could lose a lot of connections and you’re putting a lot of added pressure on yourself by focusing on one sport when you’re younger that you don’t need to.”
When Alexa reflects on a favourite fun memory, a casual swim team she was on where she could catch up with her friend Rayna at the pool comes to mind.
“I remember talking at the side of the pool was so much more fun than actually swimming. And I like to swim, but I liked to socialize with her more than I liked to swim. Maybe that’s why I didn’t become a swimmer, but just that memory, being in the sun in the pool – that was the best times.”
It wasn’t about competition or being the best, but more about getting active and having fun.
Breaking Down Barriers
Alexa said sport is also a good way to break the ice and talk to teammates about a sport, which leads to talking about life and school and other things.
“I think sport is just a good way to break barriers between other people, because you have a common goal. A common goal is you want to beat that team, or a common goal is you want to make this time standard, or whatever. “
In the long run, Alexa’s experience with other sports not only developed her as an athlete, but created memories and helped improve key skills, such as communication skills, that she uses in everyday life.
“Being able to talk to a bunch of different people about their life experiences, I feel like that’s a huge benefit and that helped me a lot when I started travelling with skating and going different places. Especially with interviews for school or interviews for a job. Having so many experiences with so many different types of people made all that easier.”
To learn more about the dangers of early sport specialization and the benefits of playing multiple sports, or to read more stories like Alexa’s, visit our website and check out the #PlayMoreBeMore campaign.