When coach yells the dreaded words “take a lap,” my quads howl. My stomach becomes a Ferris wheel. I’m not sure my legs will carry me that far.
I’m not an athlete. Now, that’s not to say I’m bad at sports, if I do say so myself. I can shoot a three and grab a rebound. I can throw a touchdown or sack a quarterback. And yeah, bro, I do even lift.
But I’ll never be an athlete. At 16 years young, I’m four years too late.
I’m stuck on the track team now. Not because I like track. I don’t like track.
It’s all that I can do.
I’d rather be playing basketball, but I didn’t join an AAU team in elementary school.
I’d rather be playing baseball, but I’m not willing to travel the country to swing a bat.
I’d rather be playing football–I did play football, actually–but two concussions, a blown out knee and a 40-year-old’s back later, I prefer to play the game with flags, not pads.
Instead, I jog around an oval for two hours each and every day after school, wondering what time it is and what the heck a shot is made of.
I do it because I can do it. I do it because I can’t play basketball or baseball or football at school. I do it because, technically, it’s a sport, and I want to play a high school sport.
Well, actually, I want to play high school sports. I want to play football and basketball and baseball. Nowadays? I’m only supposed to play one, and I already missed my chance to pick one.
Why that is, I have no idea. Specializing in one sport is backwards, just ask some professionals.
Maybe you think you aren’t good enough. Maybe you think you have to practice your sport every day. Well, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, a four sport star in high school, had something to say about that in an interview with ThePostGame.com in Febuary 2012: “I didn’t just play football as a kid. I played soccer, baseball, basketball as well. It made me a far better all-round athlete than I would have been otherwise and it is the reason I am in the league. I don’t like to see kids playing just one sport. It is like they are pros from the age of 9 or 10. I don’t like it and I don’t understand it.”
Still not convinced? Still think you need to focus all your time on football if you want a college scholarship? Take a look at what Seattle Seahawks head coach told Stack.com when he was coaching USC: “The first questions I’ll ask about a kid are, “What other sports does he play? What does he do? What are his positions? Is he a big hitter in baseball? Is he a pitcher? Does he play hoops?” All of those things are important to me. I hate that kids don’t play three sports in high school. I think that they should play year-round and get every bit of it that they can through that experience…I want guys that are so special athletically, and so competitive, that they can compete in more than one sport.”
Convinced now? Playing multiple sports helps, not hurts. Playing football and soccer and baseball should be encouraged, not made difficult. Offseason training like the Wolverines’ baseball program, where teams practice in the summer, fall, winter and spring isn’t building better athletes.
Everyone should just play two or three sports right? What seems like a simple answer on the surface is much trickier on second glance. It wouldn’t be fair for, say, the basketball team, to have to be filled with players who don’t care as much about basketball as they do about water polo. The players that care more about basketball than water polo would be hurt.
That’s where high school sports are lost at the moment. Neither I nor anyone else can play a sport just for fun anymore. Winning, even in high school, is the most important thing to a lot of people, so anyone just wanting to have a good time is out of luck.
The solution lies on the East Coast, where, at a lot of boarding schools, students are required to play a sport after school all year round. There is the typical Varsity and Junior Varsity, but then there is another level: “thirds”. Thirds teams are made up of guys–not athletes–like me. Guys who just want to play for fun. Practices are more relaxed, expectations are as low as can be.
That’s just how the games should be played. Nobody’s thinking about getting scholarship offers or impressing cheerleaders (alright, that’s not true). They’re just friends, playing a sport to sweat, to let some pent-up anger out and to learn a little about themselves.