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Washington Voices

Steve Christilaw: Three-sport athletes still exist, and they’re tired

Thu., June 12, 2014

Lamentation on the Internet aside, the three-sport athlete in high school sports is still out there. They come fewer and farther between as school size increases, yes, but they’re still out there.

Just don’t ask one to sit down for a prolonged chat for the next month and a half or so. Their schedule is full, almost to overflowing, and it will likely stay that way until August, but only for a couple weeks. Fall sports begin turning out mid-month.

Summer is the part of the high school sports iceberg that’s underwater – the big part you can’t see. It’s where each sport demands a down payment of sweat equity.

It’s a big demand for one sport; for multiple sports it can be staggering. It takes a deep dedication to tackle multiple sports in this era of specialization and year-round dedication.

Not to mention a deeper pocketbook.

It’s a lot to ask of a young, aspiring athlete. And it’s a lot to ask from supportive parents, both in time and dollars.

The era when kids just signed up for sports and rolled from season to season, sport after sport, are long gone.

Take football, for example. The high school season begins in mid-August and runs, if a team is lucky, through October. Weight training then kicks in – because getting bigger and stronger is a continual pursuit.

Hitting the weight room continues through the summer, and once classes end, camp season begins.

Team camps are important. In many cases, a starting position on a team’s varsity can be won at a team camp, and at the very least team chemistry is forged during camps.

Individual camps are out there as well. For players hoping to play college football, it’s both a chance to get quality instruction from college coaches and a chance to display their talent.

After that, passing camps help hone skill players for the coming season.

That’s enough to keep anyone busy for a summer.

Add basketball to the mix, with its own set of camps and summer leagues, and it’s enough to wear you out just thinking about it.

Swap out wrestling for basketball and it’s even more exhausting. Along with traditional camps and freestyle tournaments, the sport has evolved “intensive” camps, where wrestlers push themselves to the limits of endurance with the intention of pushing that limit out further and further every day.

Throw in baseball and the summer seasons?

Change the sports to volleyball, basketball and softball and you get the same kind of schedule.

It begins to resemble running a daily mini-Ironman triathlon – and that’s not counting the cross country kids out putting in 50 or more miles running through the neighborhood each week.

The fact is, most sports have both a high school season AND a club season. To be successful, you can’t do one without the other.

Look at any high school varsity volleyball team and you see a roster filled with club players who have probably played two seasons worth of matches over the summer before the school season begins.

It’s the same with soccer, where premier- and select-level players are the difference-makers.

Or any sport, for that matter.

It takes a special kind of young person to take on a full commitment to three varsity-level sports at the big-school level, and it takes a special level of support from their families to make it work – whether it’s making sure the kids get to and from their multiple practices throughout the day to getting proper nutrition and the proper amount of sleep.

So when you see one of these increasingly rare kids, the ones with letters in three sports on their jacket or sweater, give them a pat on the back. But be gentle – they’re probably exhausted.

And do the same to their family.

Correspondent Steve Christilaw can be reached at

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