Multisport athletes have better long-term options

Summer has become a veritable juggling act for high school athletes, coaches and parents when it comes to trying to play two or even three sports in a week. But, the effort of maybe being in two or three places at once – as impossible as that sometimes seems to be – is well worth it in the long run.

After all, the multi-sport athlete is at the heart of what school sports should be. And while a few top schools are doing quite well at producing male and female participants in two or three sports, the truth is that more and more of today’s high school athletes in the state – and nation in general – usually train for a sport 12 months a year. They give up the chance to play anything else at the college level, use different muscle groups, and just enjoy bonding with another group of kids as teammates.

Unless you are a Kyrie Irving (MKA/St. Patrick’s/Duke/Cleveland Cavaliers in basketball), a Rick Porcello (Seton Hall Prep/Boston Red Sox in baseball) or even a Tim Howard (MKA/North Brunswick/Manchester , England and the United States World Cup team) in soccer – which, even as high school freshmen seemed destined to one day become pros – the truth for 99% of high school athletes d today is that specialization will not lead to a professional career. And that focusing on just one sport can mean missing out on some truly great and varied multi-team experiences that you might one day regret not being a part of.

Meanwhile, some state football teams are already training with the first game more than two months away, while some AAU basketball teams have traveled coast to coast during past two months and some elite club football programs are urging children NOT to play. for their high school teams anymore.

Yet multi-sport athletes continue to thrive at a number of smaller North Jersey schools, including Cedar Grove, Caldwell, Verona and Glen Ridge, to name just four suburban Essex County schools where children frequently play two or three sports in a school year. with the added knowledge that there simply aren’t many student-athletes available to make the rounds on a lot of different teams.

When it comes to preserving the continued presence of multi-sport athletes, it seems to be even more often the case with small schools embodying centuries-old tradition, although there are certainly exceptions like at Montclair High, a program Group 4 to most sports. There, traditional tri-sport stars like recent graduate Jillian Jennings (football, basketball and lacrosse) still enjoy playing all the different sports throughout their school careers, even though there will be a concentration on one in college. In Jennings’ case, she will be on a full scholarship as a women’s soccer player at Division I Boston College where her older sister, Kayla, another multi-sport athlete in her high school games, is also on the team.

Jillian Jennings of Montclair, going for a shot, played basketball and lacrosse in addition to soccer.

“In a small school like ours, multi-sport athletes have always been like that, and it almost has to be that way for most of our programs to succeed just because of numbers,” said Ken Trimmer, the Caldwell’s retired football coach. and a former boys and girls basketball coach for the Chiefs who still serves as game director for the Phil Simms North-South All-Star Football Classic. “We all try to work with each other when the kids have American Legion baseball games or summer basketball league competitions, and – for the most part – we’re able to make sure that all the teams get a good dose in terms of having a kid on hand that night in whatever they try to do together as a unit.

“It’s just something we’re used to here, and I think kids really enjoy being on different sports teams.”

And, at the same time, with August really not that far away, which means the “official” start of pre-season autumn training, a break just before diving into the new campaign. Coming fall isn’t such a bad idea either.

“I think the kids need a little break at some point in the summer, and – yes – some football teams get carried away with too much practice and way too much 7-on-7,” Trimmer continued. , who passed 53 years. years as a head coach or assistant in high school football. “I’m all for kids playing different sports, and it’s been that way in small schools like ours for years, for both boys and girls. And I think that’s still a very healthy way to do it!”

It may take old coaching proverbs like Trimmer to truly understand when it comes to expressing the intangibles that can be acquired over the long term by the multi-sport athlete.

“Kids are going to be unhappy in 20 years when they look back and don’t have that experience of many sports; they didn’t get the extra skills you get from changing things up,” said Caldwell’s former gridiron mentor, who was once a standout defensive end at Montclair State. “When you look at a school like Cedar Grove, Verona or Glen Ridge, their top athletes play three sports. Their baseball shortstop could be a quarterback on the football team or a guard on the basketball team, and that’s great to see!

Big schools are often more likely to be the culprit in terms of single-sport athletes, but Group 4 and non-public A programs aren’t the only culprits – not by a long shot – as some other schools find more in addition. more followers of a single sport. Additionally, there are great examples of Constables participating in at least two sports, such as the number of field hockey-girl lacrosse players who also tend to transition from the fall sticker sport to the spring version .

Athletes who only play football, soccer, or basketball, and nothing else, may be the product of overzealous coaches who take themselves and the quest to “keep up with the Joneses” way too much. seriously.

They may wonder, “If everyone is doing it, how can we not spend the extra time they do if we still want to be able to compete?” »

“It’s getting really out of control with teams training from day one after the spring state finals in early June, and with all 7-on-7s,” said Barry Kostibos, Livingston’s retired football coach. who had also been an assistant baseball coach for the Lancers. “As it stands, some schools practice more than NFL teams, and many schools don’t even start their seasons until mid-September.”

The multi-sport athlete can indeed still thrive and enjoy the tangible and intangible aspects of being a teammate in more than one sport in this modern, ever-changing world of specialization. These keen observers of the school sports world, such as Caldwell’s Trimmer – who make a point of reminding us of what a varied school athlete can be – do everyone a favor, and at least make children, parents and coaches think about the idea too.

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