Most all of us would agree that some of the best times in our lives were the times spent in High School. LaRue County High School on average has 750 students each school year. Of the 750, nearly 300 of those are student-athletes. Of the 300+ student-athletes at least half of those participate in more than one sport. A small percentage of those athletes participate in three sports year around.
Many young athletes grow up participating in multiple sports at the youth level, year around, in order to gauge interest and whether or not they have the ability to continue a particular sport. By the time athletes enter the ninth grade a decision is usually made as to whether or not they want to continue participating at the high school level.
I had the opportunity to ask some of the multi-sport athletes and their coaches their thoughts about playing multiple sports in high school A common theme for the athletes was to take advantage of every opportunity given while staying in shape, and gaining a competitive experience.
“What motivates me is representing my school as much as possible, and the competition that comes with playing sports,” says junior softball and volleyball player Kaitlyn Warnshuis.
“I always like to be active and it keeps me in a routine with the school year,” says Junior Mallory Williams who has been seen playing basketball, volleyball and tennis.
Head Baseball Coach Eric Allen believes “playing multiple sports in high school is important for schools athletic programs as well the student athlete’s themselves. Most of the best baseball players we’ve had in our programs history have been multi-sport kids.” Jordan Newton, Brandon Embry, Derek Shelton just to name a few.
Allen goes on to say, “What separates multi-sport athletes is the extra competition they get. In my opinion the core virtue of a high achieving athlete is competitiveness. Multi-sport athletes are competing throughout the year when sport specific guys are working hard improving their skills in the offseason, but not competing. Competing at multiple sports gives kids a little bit of an edge which can win them a lot of games. Coach Armes used to encourage everybody on our football team to play other sports for that reason. He would say “there’s no substitute for competition.”
Senior Cameron Dawson certainly concurs with Allen. Playing multiple sports has just been a way of life for the last seventeen years as he has spent many days and nights with his father at a particular sport. “I just love to compete, and I get so much out of playing three sports (golf, basketball and baseball). I actually wish I could play them all! There is no substitute for competition and sports make you mentally tougher which will obviously help me in each sport, and later in life as well.”
Head Boys Basketball Coach Paul Childress says, “I think playing multiple sports in high school has major advantages for student-athletes. I really feel that you can look at it in many different angles. I feel that the high school athlete needs to enjoy their high school experience. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to play high school sports and also play those sports with your high school friends. Sports in general teach kids so many life lessons that will help them succeed in life after high school.”
Childress continues by saying, “sometimes I feel student athletes want to “focus” on one sport, and in some cases could be beneficial to certain individuals, don’t get me wrong, but I think as a whole, playing multiple sports often makes athletes well rounded and more competitive. I have encountered numerous people over the years regretting that they didn’t play additional sports in high school.”
Girls Cross Country Coach Jackie Harley sees the advantage of multi-sport athletes. “Generally what separates multi-sport athletes from one is the determination and the drive to compete. The advantages to playing two or more sports is the athlete having a feeling of belonging, of being wanted, the team experience from more than one perspective.
Head Football Coach Tony Hatmaker admits the multi-sport athlete is more diverse. “As a former multi-sport in high school and college, I am a huge advocate of our student-athletes playing other sports. It gives them an opportunity to diversify their skill sets, friendships and competitive preparation. They seem to be more aware of the discipline necessary in the area of academics, communication skills, and time management balance.”
“I encourage all of the volleyball student-athletes to participate in multiple sports,” says Head Volleyball Coach Ben Schell. “Participation in multiple sports provides the student-athletes with a variety of opportunities that they would not be provided with if they just focused on volleyball. Some sports, such as basketball and tennis, actually emphasize some of the same basic skills that volleyball emphasizes. So, participation in these sports actually will help the girls to become better players.”
“Playing three sports (basketball, volleyball, and softball) keeps me in shape, and by playing three sports I gain different qualities from each sport, that help me in the other,” says Junior Presley Brown.
Junior Whitney Bauer who plays soccer and cheers during the fall season “loves the challenge of balancing sports and academics.”
Tennis Coach Terry Caven notices the separation of skill level between the multi-sport athlete and the ones that focus on one particular sport. “I don’t see a great difference in tennis specific skills, however I do see a difference in attributes like coordination, agility, speed, and strength. Also many of these multi-sport athletes have a faster learning curve for picking up new skills.
When asked what advice would you give younger athletes who consider playing multiple sports, Senior Derek Goode encourages athletes to “do it because you only have four years to do whatever sports you want. You don’t want to look back ten years from now and have regrets about not going out for those sports.”
Junior Bryson Cobb (football, basketball and baseball) encourages athletes to take advantage of every opportunity. “My advice is to play everything you can possibly play, because in one second all your abilities can be gone and you don’t want to regret anything you didn’t do. Also compete as much as possible. If you really love sports in general you want to compete all the time.”