Highlands has seen student-athletes do both this past season and previous seasons. But Highlands Director of Athletics Matt Haskamp studied Health and Physical Education as a college student and pointed out four main reasons to play more than one sport. The first two are overuse injuries and burnout.
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A study done by the University of Wisconsin, just this month is one of the first of its nature, but it could be a warning for parents in the future. It was published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine just this month.
The study focused on 302 high school student-athletes. They were put into categories based on their specialization, or the number of sports they participated in. Of the 302, 105 (34.8%) ranked as low specialization, 87 (28.8%) were moderately specialized, and 110 (36.4%) were defined as being highly specialized.
The research team found that athletes from smaller schools were much more likely to fall into the low specialization category. Only 25% of athletes from smaller schools were recognized as being high specialization, while 48% of the students at large school fell into the same category.
It also revealed that athletes considered highly specialized were more than twice as likely than the other categories to report a history of overuse knee and hip injuries. Participating in a single sport for more than eight months during the year was an important factor in high injury risk of highly specialized athletes.
The study comes after some high-profile coaches and athletes spoke to the advantages of having kids play multiple sports. Earlier this year a chart circulated the internet that showed the percentage of football players at Ohio State, who played under coach Urban Meyer. The information showed Meyer's preference to recruit multi-sport players.
Haskamp's points to kids who play multiple sports have having gained experience in sport and life. When he coached, Haskamp encouraged his players to play other sports.
"That meant they were staying competitive, staying in shape and most likely staying out of trouble," Haskamp said. "I loved the social aspect as well. Students were able to lead in different settings. These multi-sport athletes were able to see competition through different lenses. A student might excel in football, but struggle in baseball. A little adversity can be good as it can show that they need to work extra hard to reach the level of play they want in baseball. I have seen this hard work effect not only on the sport they may not be great in, but the sport they excel in as well."
Haskamp's final point is limited opportunity. He does not like to see students graduate with regrets of not trying something. Haskamp said he knows a number of people who wish they'd have played more sports during their high school years.
"Once high school is over, the opportunity to compete in competitive sport is drastically diminished," Haskamp said. "Therefore, I hope that our students try as many different things that they can. Hopefully, this diverse approach will lead itself to something they can focus on later in life when the opportunities are not as vast."
Highlands has had a few student-athletes go as far as playing three sports. Seniors Kyle Finfrock, Kyle Rust and Bradley Greene play football, basketball and baseball with junior Karsen Hunter running track, cross country and playing basketball. Finfrock, Rust and Greene helped the football and baseball teams to region championships last year and Hunter helped the Ladybird cross country team win its fourth straight Class AA state championship and the Ladybird track and field squad to a Class AA state runner-up finish.
"It helps keep your options open for college," Finfrock said. "It also keeps you in shape in the offseason for (the other) sports. That's about it."
Jared Lorenzen, a 1999 Highlands graduate, played basketball and baseball in addition to dominating on the football field before playing football at the University of Kentucky. Lorenzen helped the Highlands basketball team to a state runner-up finish in 1997 in addition to quarterbacking the Bluebirds to the 1998 Class 3A undefeated state championship.
The combined enrollment at Highlands High has been approximately between 800 to 1,000 students allowing for numerous multi-sport athletes. That's where Highlands football Head Coach Brian Weinrich said communicating with other head coaches is vital. For instance, Weinrich and staff would not want to wear players down lifting weights if they are to also participate in a basketball camp later in the day.
"If you look at the football roster, the basketball roster, the baseball roster and the track roster, you'll see a lot of the same guys," Weinrich said. "You'll have some guys who are not basketball or baseball players. Not every guy can do all of them. But at Highlands, we are in such a unique situation in 2016 with the numbers we have to cross over. As coaches, we are the biggest supporters of one another. We'll do everything we can to help each other. I think Highlands is the exception to all the one-sport specialization out there. We have more two-sport and three-sport athletes than most schools our size."
Sophomore Zoie Barth returned to softball this fall and cracked the starting line-up after focusing on basketball in recent seasons. Barth started at third base for the 9th Region champion Highlands softball team and at a guard spot on the basketball team as a freshman.
"I'm really glad I decided to play. I really love the girls, the sport and the great time so far," Barth said. "I've gotten close to the girls and our memories are awesome."
Barth's head basketball coach Jaime Walz-Richey also played multi-sports in high school in addition to her Hall of Fame basketball career. Richey played varsity volleyball in the eighth and ninth grade, softball from seventh grade through her sophomore year in addition to varsity golf and tennis as a senior.
"I tell the kids whatever makes them happy and I believe that each sport can help one another," Richey said. "I also tell them that if they are going to play multiple sports then they will need to put the time into each one. For instance (recent Highlands graduate) Haley Coffey, in the fall, she had fall softball on the weekend but during the week, she made sure to attend basketball workouts so she could excel at both. If you have the work ethic and motivation, you can excel in multi sports. I think if you play multi sports, it gives you a little break from your sport and also you are around other athletes and coaches."
"The cross-training helps with the other sports because you work different muscles," Elizabeth Poindexter said. "The more toned you are, the fewer injuries you have and it gets you pretty prepared. I wasn't going to give up any of them. Sports can be clickish at times, But I had really great teammates."
Mallory Adler, a 2009 Highlands graduate, played soccer and basketball during her days wearing the Blue and White. Adler was not eligible to play soccer as a sophomore after the family moved in 2006. But Adler became eligible to play basketball. Adler went on to play both at Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina for a year before focusing on academics.
"Soccer and basketball are two completely different sports. They are two completely different types of conditioning," Adler said. "You work different muscles and do different types of agility so I think it helps you be a more well-rounded athlete. It's tough to chose one when you have the love for both. The girls are different. The personalities are different. But I'm glad I got both. It's nice to have two different types of friends. Luckily, we were good in both."
The upcoming season promises to see more multi-sport athletes. The official fall practice season begins July 15.