What happened to the 3-sport-athletes?

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There was a time when playing three sports was the norm.  Guys might play football, basketball, and baseball, while girls might play volleyball, basketball, and softball. Now, if an athlete plays two sports he or she is special.

The current dilemma schools face is the decline of 3-sport-athletes. There are multiple factors to why these outstanding athletes are slowly disappearing; the main reasons are single sport specialization, and the influence of club sports. Specializing in sports is mainly due to the success of that sport. For example, an athlete who is the star player will tend to focus on that sport only, like a quarterback or cross country runner. Coaches gear up their top athletes to focus on that sport specifically throughout the year by persuading them with possible Division 1 offers and introducing them to an outside team, a club team.

The club teams are responsible for swaying athletes to specialize and all coaches know this. For example, the US Youth Soccer is a country- wide soccer federation that consists of high level playing leagues in the states, leagues that runs all year for club soccer teams. Soccer players generally play in these clubs after and before the actual school season; taking away their ability to join a sport before and after.

I play one sport, which is soccer. I only play soccer because it’s the sport that I’ve been playing since I was 7.  I’ve tried playing other sports, like football or basketball, and while I found them quite fun and entertaining, I wasn’t interested in playing competitively because of my lack of skill in those sports. I am very dedicated with soccer; this is my third year playing varsity, so I know the work I have to put in towards the season, beginning with the open field workouts that are during the same time as fall sports, so they coincide with each other. We have consistently qualified for CCS in soccer so that means they additional two or three weeks of training which interrupts my participation in spring sports, not to mention that I play club soccer after the season ends as well.

My brother Jorge, on the other hand, is a 3-sport-athlete; he does cross country in the fall, soccer in the winter, and track in the spring, and he’s been doing it since his freshman year.  “It’s what keeps me going in school; I always have something to look forward to either in the races or the games,” he said. Both our parents are strong supporters of athletics in school, demanding that we do our best academically and athletically. Strong parental support is also a strong factor for athletes. It guides them to explore other sports knowing they are backed up by their parents, giving them drive to participate in multiple sports.

I did some research regarding 4-year-letterman (athletes who play a sport all 4 years) at Alisal in the last five graduating classes and found only three. This lack of 4-year-letterman is attributed to the poor showing of programs. Athletes generally would want to play for winning, playoff contending programs than the other end programs. Athletes that do not have an “identity” in the sports they play find themselves in the losing end, not knowing where they belong if on a soccer pitch or a basketball court. This undermines their choice of participating in multiple sports.

Schools have to look into ways to increase turnout. I believe participation in school sports should be a requirement, even a graduation requirement. Every student must play a sport at least once in their high school career. This will spark interest in sports therefore more athletes. Letterman jackets should be rewarded to the most participatory of all athletes. Medals should be awarded to three-sport-athletes as well. Schools have to look in to ways to increase turnout of sports or else athletics in schools could possibly shut down for good.

High school sports will always be a source of entertainment and leisure for students, whether someone does one sport or multiple sports, athletics will forever thrive in high schools everywhere. The 3-sport-athlete is a dying breed for the most part; and they may never come back, but as long as there are free minded athletes that are willing to try other sports, there is hope that the fabled 3-sport-athlete will return.

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