Celebrate our multi-sport athletes
June 22—The Robesonian has long-running awards to honor the best athlete in every sport, and some of my favorite interviews are with athletes as I let them know they’ve been named Player of the Year and reminisce about their success then that I am preparing a feature article to accompany the award.
But as I have for the past few years – August will mark my third anniversary with this post – I discovered that there was one prize missing: one to recognize the top all-around athlete in the county.
Well, he was missing. Not anymore.
In today’s issue, you’ll find Robeson County’s inaugural All-Around Female Athlete of the Year award, given to Purnell Swett tri-sport star Chloe Locklear. A prize for the best male all-around athlete is planned for Saturday’s edition.
This award celebrates a multi-sport athlete – but by selecting the individual who best represents the successes of that special group, it celebrates them all. In high school sports, there are so many talented people who play two, three or even four sports – sometimes doing it at the university level for three or four years each. Locklear, for example, played 10 combined college seasons of volleyball, basketball, and softball.
In the age of specialization, these athletes remain the cornerstone of high school sports, especially in the smaller classifications. But even at our two largest schools in Robeson County, Lumberton and Purnell Swett, many of the top athletes are extremely valuable across multiple sports.
And there is something to that. Not only does playing different sports throughout the year allow an athlete to stay in better shape for each successive season, but the skills they learn on the field or in the field can be transferred to another.
“As a coach and athletic director, I strongly believe that they don’t need to specialize, they need to play different sports,” said William Deese, softball coach and athletic director at Purnell Swett. “All these sports help you for the next sport; they keep you fit and motivate you to do what you need to do.”
And these athletes are doing it while maintaining their grades and navigating the complicated waters that today’s youth face on a daily basis.
Locklear wasn’t someone I considered Player of the Year in any of the three sports she played. She wasn’t even the best player on her own team in two of them, as she shared the basketball court and softball court with a county player of the year. But she is the perfect candidate for All-Around Female Athlete of the Year recognition, as she has had a huge impact on every team on and off the pitch, delivering strong output at setter, striker and goalkeeper. receiver, while leading by example – and that leadership has been key to phenomenal seasons for the Rams’ basketball and softball teams.
Much of the same can be said about the male recipient to announce as well.
In the future, I hope this award becomes something that Robeson County sports fans look to every June as a symbol of overall excellence in local high school sports. And perhaps as it is awarded in the years to come, the athletes themselves will begin to see the award as a goal.
They deserve all the recognition for their hard work and unique talents.