The Multi-Sport Athlete: Not Extinct

Contrary to popular belief, not all the best athletes in the state are giving up the other sports they play in. While there are some student-athletes across the state doing that, there are many who are not.  All of them have different reasons, and most of them are getting similar results as those who are only on a single sport.

“I always took pride in being a three-sport athlete,” said most recent Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Ben Lucas, who played football, basketball, and baseball at Cony. “I love Cony so I wanted to represent it in as many ways as possible.”

His lack of “focusing” on one sport didn’t hurt him, either. He’s headed to UMaine in the fall to play for Coach Jack Cosgrove and the Black Bears.

In fact, many college coaches prefer a multi-sport athlete. One of these coaches is Bates women’s soccer coach Kelsy Ross.

“Speaking mostly from experience and preference, being a multi-sport athlete at the high school level can be extremely beneficial,” said Ross, the Gorham grad who played basketball and soccer at Roanoke College in Virginia. “It’s a form of cross-training in the purist sense. Additionally, multi-sport athletes are being pushed in different competitive environments, are being exposed to various coaching models, and often are learning how to be a better overall athlete”

One player who adjusted her schedule but still plays multiple sports is Oxford Hills star Anna Winslow, who excels at both basketball as a top player on the Eastern A basketball title squad last season (keep an eye on her for Miss Maine Basketball in the upcoming season) and as a top player for the Vikings softball team. She also juggles AAU basketball and travel softball, but dropped down a level in travel softball this year so she could play for the fun of it, not to worry about scholarships.

“I’ve considered dropping ASA travel softball (but never high school softball) to devote more time to hoops,” said Winslow. “But, I want to be as marketable to college coaches as possible. Also in high school, nobody respects a one sport athlete.”

Winslow’s mom, former Oxford Hills multi-sport star Lori Winslow, would have allowed her to drop a sport, but only this year.

“I would have allowed (her to drop softball for basketball) this year, but not before now,” said Winslow. ”I think it’s very important physically and mentally to play multiple sports until you have to make a decision for college.”

Bates men’s basketball coach Jon Furbush prefers the multi-sport athlete for a multitude of reasons.

“They’re not burnt out from year-round hoops,” said Furbush, a former multi-sport athlete himself at South Portland. “(Multi-sport athletes) have a higher ceiling, so when they specialize in college there is much more room for growth and improvement.”

There are other fringe benefits as well, especially on the team-building side of the ledger.

“One of the other sports they play may be an extremely good program where all they know is that they win every time they play. That can help carry over on the basketball court,” said Furbush, who has a former multi-sport athlete brother named Charlie who pitches for the Seattle Mariners. “It’s a healthier balance and teaches young people how to socialize and interact with different groups of people. This generation of kids often struggle with social interaction with people outside their ‘bubble’.”

So if you have “The Talk” (No, not THAT talk) with your student-athlete this summer about dropping down to only one sport, remind them that it isn’t as beneficial as they might think, and might actually do more harm than good.

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Matt Boutwell

About Matt Boutwell

Matt Boutwell is a morning radio host for Z105.5 FM in Auburn, the Voice of the Oxford Hills Vikings on WOXO 92.7 in Norway, and the Program Director for MBR Radio. A former high school athlete who realized he was better off talking about sports rather than playing them, he lives in Mechanic Falls with his family.