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Posted at 05:30 PM ET, 02/28/2012

Transition Game: The dual-sport dilemma


When you first pick up a ball, bat, stick or racket, your first thought isn’t, “I could earn some money to go to school one day.” (Though that idea seems to be creeping into athletes’ minds at earlier ages.) In the beginning, you can play several different sports and love them all equally. It’s not until things get serious that most athletes choose just one sport.

 In high school you can certainly maintain playing more than one sport. This area is rife with high school athletes who excel in more than one sport. But the decision to continue pursuing more than one sport comes with pros and cons.

Two examples here — one a standout male athlete (South County’s Andrew Rector) entering the final season of his high school career, one a standout female (South River’s Brooke Griffin) who has already moved on to college — offer insights into what can be gained (or lost) in competing in more than one field.

Rector, a senior at South County, plays three sports: football, baseball and basketball.  He was an honorable mention All- Met in both football and baseball.

“I’ve been playing baseball and football my whole life. I just love playing sports,” said Rector, who plans on playing baseball in college. “I’ve been doing it for so long I think I’m used to it. I’ve been playing three sports since I started playing sports at probably 8 or 9.”

Rector admits that he rarely goes home right after school; he has practices almost year-round.  His fitness level is strong because each sport helps keep him in shape for the next, although he warns about the transitions.

“The hardest part is transitioning and getting back into it. [Other players] going to be a little ahead of you since you were in another sport but you just have to put in twice the work,” he said.

Of course, Rector’s coaches have all tried to persuade him to play one sport, but they all make concessions because he’s so passionate. “A guy like Andrew, he’s so talented — I encourage him to do all the other things because clearly he enjoys it. So we know we’re going to get him eventually,” says his baseball coach Mark Luther.

 Rector, who missed five basketball games due to football, knows that playing more than one sport in college isn’t likely given the intensity of collegiate athletics.

He said the one sport he would pursue at the next level is baseball. Luther says his passion for other sports may have been somewhat detrimental to his future baseball career.

“He’s not been able to do enough baseball stuff at the right time, because he’s doing other sports at the time,” Luther said, “He hasn’t really been in front of college coaches in order to even get looked at so the recruiting for him has been very difficult compared to guys that are not as good as him that only play one sport.”

Luther, who has 20 years of baseball coaching experience, believes high school athletes should play more than one sport, “ Without question, they become more competitive, their work ethic is a little bit better, people are tracking their grades all the time, it’s just a little bit of a better situation that they can be in a structured environment all the time.”

As athletes near college, however, he notes it can be tricky. That’s when they should focus their energy on a single sport, he said.

Griffin was the 2009 All- Met Player of the Year in field hockey and the 2010 Player of the Year in lacrosse, and now plays lacrosse at the University of Maryland. 

“I loved playing two sports,” Griffin said, “ . . . Field hockey made me better at lacrosse, just being in shape. I feel like I was always in shape from one sport to the next.”

Griffin, a red-shirt sophomore for the nation’s second ranked Terps ,even considered playing both field hockey and lacrosse in college. After sustaining a knee injury, the passing of her mother, and a collegiate athlete reality check, she opted against it.

“I thought definitely playing a D1 sport it would be a lot because your training offseason and your always working out and training for that sport,” she confesses, “that’s one of the main reasons — I still wanted to come home and see my family and if I was playing both sports I would never be able to go home and see them.”

Griffin had the support of her collegiate coaches to play both sports even though she knew the preference is for athletes to play one sport.

Besides the feeling of accomplishment and staying in shape, playing more than one sport has can be physically beneficial. The cross training — working your muscles in different patterns — can help prevent injury. I had this conversation once while sprawled across a training table at Georgetown dealing with an injury of my own. Our team orthopedic surgeon, John Klimkiewicz, was all for the idea.

In high school, when the lacrosse coach came recruiting I felt it was more important to be with my team during the offseason to continue to build camaraderie and team chemistry, I had my heart set on a basketball title and other sports didn’t fit for me.

Balance is the key.

Said Rector: “You got to make sure you have time for your school work, because if you don’t do your school work you can’t play any sports.”

“Make sure that you can balance school and sports and make sure you do take a break so you don’t wear out your body. I feel like I know a lot of people in college that are so worn out because all they’ve been doing is trying to train, train, train and never give their body a break,” says Griffin. “Just make sure you can balance between school, sports, and actually having a social life and having fun.”

About Transition Game

Monica McNutt was an All-Met basketball player at Holy Cross Academy who went on to star for the Georgetown women’s team. She will be offering advice to high school athletes who are looking to make the leap to college sports

Got a question for Monica, or an idea she can use for a future post? Leave it here in the comments, or email her at hss@washpost.com. Follow her on Twitter at @__MCM__.

Previously:

Making the most of your college experience (Feb. 14, 2012)

Handling your parents and coaches (Feb. 7, 2012)

Dealing with that special breed of fans: Your parents (Jan. 24, 2012)

Advice for the young star athlete (Jan. 17, 2012)

Offseason is right time to get with the program (Jan. 3, 2012)

Managing to stay close to the game (Dec. 20, 2011)

Leadership, Tebow-style (Dec. 13, 2011)

The importance of attitude (Dec. 6, 2011)

Fine-tuning your “mistake response” (Nov. 22, 2011)

Looking beyond the stat sheet (Nov. 15, 2011)

Battling the “dumb jock” stereotype (Nov. 8, 2011)

Taking advantage of your athletic resume (Nov. 1, 2011)

College recruiting: Finding a program that fits you (Oct. 25, 2011)

Navigating the recruiting process: “Get a clue, control your career” (Oct. 18, 2011)

Secrets to success: Food and rest (Oct. 11, 2011)

Introducing “Transition Game” (Oct. 4, 2011)

 

By Monica McNutt  |  05:30 PM ET, 02/28/2012

 
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