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Native Sun News: Is there a place for the multi-sport athlete?

Filed Under: National | Sports
More on: native sun news, oglala sioiux, south dakota

The following story was written and reported by David Michaud, Native Sun News Correspondent.All content © Native Sun News.

Billy Scott, Art Vitalis, Ken Franks Jr, and Ezra Zephier were all multisport athletes who excelled on the basketball court for the Red Cloud Crusaders. COURTESY/Haskell Indian Leader

Is there a place for the Native multi-sport athlete?
By David Michaud
Native Sun News Correspondent

PINE RIDGE — What is better, to compete year-round in multiple athletic competitions or to focus all a child's energy on one sport?

That is a question that has been around for years. Is it better to mix up an athlete’s interests throughout the year, thereby possibly keeping their attention throughout a season? Or should an athlete concentrate everything on his or her favorite sport, thereby possibly maximizing their skill level?

There are different opinions to these questions, of course.

One man who is of the opinion that the more diversity an athlete has the better it is. McKenzie Casey was a basketball star for the Red Cloud Crusaders and he graduated in 2006. After graduating he went on to play basketball at South Dakota State University.

“I would advise kids to do more because doing other sports help condition you for whatever a kid’s main sport is,” said Casey, who competed in four sports throughout high school. “And it's always fun to compete in anything if you are a competitor.”

To go along with keeping Casey busy he believes competing in various sports helped his skill set and also helped him on the recruiting trail, which took him to a Division I college.

“Doing more helped me get recruited. I felt faster and stronger because I competed in those other sports so that helped me with my conditioning for basketball. I believe coaches want players who have competed in other sports,” said Casey.

Another former athlete who is all for kids competing in more sports is Lonnie Brewer, the former football and basketball star at Pine Ridge High School who graduated in 2003.

Brewer believes that the positives far outweighed the negatives while he was playing sports in high school. “I don't think it hurt my basketball opportunities,” said Brewer. “Or, if it did I was not aware of it. I was actually recruited more for football.”

“Most of the time I was stronger, faster, and more agile than my opponents because I was always active in other sports. Having different training in each sport really helps people physically and mentally,” said Brewer, who also competed in four sports in high school.

One aspect of playing in high school that both athletes point out separated them from their classmates was the fact that most did not compete in many different sports.

“Most of my classmates were one-sport athletes,” said Brewer.

Casey said the same thing, “Some classmates did more sports, but the majority just did one.”

According to the National Federation of High School (NFHS) coaches though, there are some advantages to being “sport-specific,” such as, “more games and practices leading to faster muscle memory, specific physical and skills development, and a greater level of comfort and confidence while playing, greater exposure to junior high, high school and sometimes even college coaches, more opportunities to review and refine athletic skills so that they can become mastered at an earlier age.”

Even the NFHS acknowledges there are drawbacks to playing a single sport though. Some of these are, "missing critical periods to learn and develop skills needed for other sports if the student-athlete later wants to try a different sport, missing an opportunity to identify hidden talents the student-athlete might have for another sport and losing intrinsic motivation to play the sport, resulting in staleness, lethargy and possibly youth sport burnout." As a second year head coach in Girls Basketball at Oelrichs High School and first year Head Coach of Volleyball at Red Cloud, Dale Pine Jr., has seen his athletes expand their interests to different sports.

“A lot of the girls I coach do multiple sports, at Olreichs every girl on the team does another sport, they were all in volleyball too; except one who was in track,” said Pine.

This is a trend that he would like to see continue.

“I like the athletes to do as many sports as they can year-round during the school year. It keeps them in shape and doing something, not the exact same thing all the time,” said Pine. “If they are doing different sports they are doing different things to stay in shape.”

Even with most of his athletes expanding themselves Pine does see that there are positives that go along with specializing in one sport. He says that athletes who do are able to focus their skills to better themselves and be prepared for their sport year round. With that said he would “like to see my own athletes continue to do more than one sport.”

Although there are many positives with expanding into different sports the biggest negative may be injuries, playing several sports means that an athlete is exposed to more jumps, cuts and hits where an injury may occur. An injury that can affect them in their favorite sport.

An example of this is Brooke Pond. Pond is currently playing basketball for Black Hills State University in Spearfish, yet she did not even compete in basketball her senior year in high school. She couldn't, she tore her ACL in volleyball.

During the last game of the season, the seventh-place game at state, Pond landed awkwardly after a spike and sustained her injury. Thanks to the injury she is also Redshirting this year at college as she is still working back from the injury.

Athletes sustaining such serious injuries are one of the biggest reasons that some coaches do not want athletes going into other sports. If an athlete gets hurt they can possibly miss an entire season, or two in serious cases.

That is a risk that most coaches and athletes are willing to take though. “I want my athletes to be as well-rounded as possible,” said Pine.

So, while some kids will always want to stick to whatever sport they are best at others will continue to spread their interests out. What is better? We may never know. It will always come down to the individual athlete and what he or she wants to do.

(Contact David Michaud at

Copyright permission by Native Sun News

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