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management because they are moving from sport to sport
throughout the year. "
Dwight assistant football coach Mitch Thompson is
known as a staunch, vocal advocate for the multisport
concept. He often posts articles supporting the approach
in the Trojan hallways.
" One-sport athletes are killing small school programs, "
Thompson said. " We need every athlete to be a multisport
athlete. There (are) at least five to six kids in Dwight right
now not playing football that should be, some of which
would more than likely start if they played.
" Basketball is the worst by far (at Dwight). The reports
are out there about how dangerous it is to be a one-sport
player. Not using muscles and joints for anything other
than that one motion is terrible on the body. "
" All the collegiate coaches are on board with this, "
Ringo said. " Me personally, anything that you do yearround,
when you start that specialization piece so early in
life, it's not good. We want (our athletes) to experience the
whole package. "
Highland Park boasts a proud list of alumni, most
notably Clayton Kershaw, All-Star pitcher and former
Cy Young Award-winner for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and Kansas
City Royals pitcher Chris Young also sported Scot colors.
All were multisport high school athletes, and all have had
tremendous success in their respective sports.
Promoting the multisport model
For a perennial powerhouse with an enrollment of
more than 2,100 students, the concept of multisport
participation is a bold objective, but others find it a
necessity. The small town of Dwight, Illinois, has a
population of 4,200. The limited pool of talent creates
challenges, and very few athletes in the Trojan program
are single-sport athletes.
With an enrollment of 249 students, Dwight Township
High School Athletic Director Andrew Pittenger provides a
different perspective. His concern is push-back from athletes.
" Aside from the obvious problems with telling a kid
what they have to do, in my experience of convincing or
talking a player into participating usually doesn't pan out, "
Pittenger said. " They either quit or simply go through the
motions because they don't really want to be there. But
that being said, I believe that it's extremely beneficial for
athletes to play multiple sports. "
The Trojans have had promising results, with a good
number of alumni making their way to the NCAA Division
I ranks. Notable Trojan alumni include NFL tight end Clay
Harbor, who was a multisport star.
Dwight Township assistant softball coach Kolby
Golden was a four-sport athlete as a Trojan, earning
All-Conference honors in all four. That included All-State
accolades in track and basketball, while accumulating
13 total varsity letters. She went on to be a four-year
letterwinner for the Illinois State University softball team.
" A lot of college coaches look for well-rounded
athletes, " Golden said. " They are also better with time
32 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019
While Ringo, Pittenger and their fellow athletic directors
can exert a certain amount of influence over their athletes,
the struggle arises when school is out of session. That's
when club and travel coaches enter the picture.
" With the club coaches, in their minds they are doing
great things for kids, but the bottom line is there just
seems to be too much money behind it, " Ringo said. " They
are making huge money off these kids and it's a billiondollar
industry - they aren't looking at it as objectively as
they should, in my opinion.
" The club coaches come in and these parents feel like
if they're paying for something, that adds value to it and
automatically makes them a better coach than our high
school coach, which obviously isn't true. "
Ringo adds that at the junior high level, athletes are
experiencing too many physical changes for a specialized
decision to be applicable heading into the high school levels.
" From the eighth grade to ninth grade transition, it's
like they're being told by their club teams that you have to
make that choice now, " Ringo said. " I don't want them to
make that decision too early - they're not ready for that. "
Making it work
Open communication, emphasizing the benefits of the
multisport concept, and the physical difficulties that can
result from specializing too soon is the key to success with
the policy, Ringo said.
" It's really worked well, and while we can't strictly require
it, it's worked, " he said. " It can be done and we've seen our
percentages go up as far as multisport athletes because we
so strongly endorse them playing more than one sport.
" Our head coaches all do a good job of talking through
the benefits. "
Ringo stresses to all players and their parents, " If
there's doubt in your mind as to whether we can make it
work, just sit down with us and we'll talk through it. "
If success is a measure of a good idea, the school's
accolades and individual achievements are a prime
example of the strength behind the concept of avoiding
specializing too early in a player's career. As they say, the
tale is in the tape.
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