Where Have All the Multi-Sport Athletes Gone?
Posted by Dean Holden at September 24th, 2015
by A Hockey Dad, 9 September 2015
Where have all the multi-sport athletes gone? I pose this question on the heels of reading numerous articles about how USA Hockey and Minnesota Hockey are encouraging kids to be multi-sport athletes. I can give you a couple of hints, but I am sure we can all draw our own conclusions. I would argue sports like hockey have squeezed them out of the opportunity to play multiple sports.
My current situation: I have four kids in the ages of 9-15. All four have played multiple sports throughout their years as we are guilty of being a family that is constantly running. Last year my daughter decided to play hockey at age 13 and I could not be more proud of her willingness to try a sport for the first time at that age. That makes it official that all four kids play hockey. This year we will have a player in high school, a 14U, a second-year Pee Wee and a first-year Squirt. We take full responsibility for having four kids and being very active, probably to a fault.
Fast-forward to this year and one of my middle children, my 12-year-old son. His sports include football, hockey, lacrosse, track and anything else he can try and compete. In the last two years, he has grown significantly and is starting to develop into his body. He is probably a little above average athlete, but in the small community that we live in, he has to be one of the leaders. He is the child that is always outside working on some form of his craft without ever being told go do this or go do that. He is either throwing footballs, shooting pucks, running through the woods with a lacrosse stick and ball, or anything sports related. He also happens to be a bookworm and one of his favorite things is doing the Rubik’s Cube in just over a minute.
Last year he worked very hard to make the top Pee Wee team in our community. We are so small, my older son just always made the top team without having to work as hard, but we went into a co-op last year and it tightened the belt on making the top teams. He put in a lot of time and worked hard, and we were very proud when he set out to make the top team as a first-year Pee Wee. The TEAM had a fantastic year and I would argue that this was probably his most favorite year of hockey. He had a blast and I think most of the kids had a very fun time.
At the end of last year his football coaches had talked to him about being the quarterback. That is his dream position. Last year, driving down to a hockey game at the University of Minnesota, he looked out at TCF Bank Stadium and told me one day he wants to play there. He said it with so much conviction that I asked how he planned to do that. He said he is going to work to get bigger, stronger and faster. He showed up this year ready to go and has become the quarterback. He is so excited and we are happy for him.
He has had an opportunity to meet Anders Lee from Edina and Notre Dame on numerous occasions and is one of his idols. I have told him the story about how he stayed with his buddies when it was probably not the politically correct thing to do and how he is a one-in-a-million athlete that he was able to be a standout high school athlete in football, hockey and baseball. They do not make them like Anders very often. I will say Anders is even a better person than he is an athlete. He just so happens to play for the New York Islanders. He is truly one in a million, but if my son wants to look up to somebody, he is a great role model for my son to watch.
In addition to his exploits on the ice, Anders Lee was a standout with the Edina football and baseball varsity teams.
Where does the multi-sport question come in? Over the weekend, we received both our football schedule and our hockey TRYOUT schedule. We have two football games on two of the four days of tryouts. This is nothing new and does not pertain to just my son. This is an issue across the state, I am sure.
On our team alone, we have six kids that play both football and hockey. This is JUST the seventh grade and only pertains to one side of the co-op. My assumption is more kids are affected and even more have quit one sport or the other as to not deal with this and or the anxiety surrounding this time of year.
So this year, six of our starters need to decide what they will do. It just happens that among them are the starting running back, starting quarterback and best lineman. These six boys need to make a decision as to what to do. Do they play in the football games or do they go to tryouts and let the football team down? I have not even seen the football game schedule for my first-year Squirt that also plays both, but he said to us last night he wants to go to hockey tryouts. So I guess before the fourth grade even starts, he has made up his mind on the multi-sport athlete question.
We have 10 football games from Sept. 13 to Oct. 29. You can throw out the week of MEA as nothing is happening then. It is a very short season. Hockey is asking them to miss 20 percent of their football games so they can place them on the proper team. Football is asking them to miss 50 percent of their tryouts, or two percent of their total ice time for the year, so they can compete.
The tug of war is not worth it for many. The anxiety that my wife and I feel about this is not healthy either. I believe the right thing to do is tell hockey, “Sorry, it is October and that for goodness sakes is football season,” but I know with hockey being over a $2,000 adventure, getting placed on the wrong team can make for a very long year.
Now with other options out there, do they try to fit in hockey outside of community-based and be the black sheep of the community? If the six on my son’s team miss the hockey tryouts, they receive a ZERO in the tryout book. That will almost positively put them on a “C” team. Somebody might get lucky and make a “B.” Good news is that if those six get placed on a “C” team, they will not lose a game. This will be great for their self esteem. Beating everyone by a score of 10-0 at the “C” level will be good for NOBODY.
If they miss their football game, the team would almost certainly lose. I am going to discuss with my son tonight, but my guess is that he will be sick to his stomach.
I have served on both sports’ association boards and I know it is no easy job and they are volunteer positions. You never please everyone and they are doing the best they can. I do not blame them. Our hockey board is only doing what the district board is telling them. The district board is only doing what Minnesota Hockey is telling them.
We can look for the multi-sport athlete and talk about it, but when it comes to actions, we do not help them at all. We start the leagues earlier in the year so we can compete at the USA Hockey Nationals and we end them later to get the High Performance entries done. In the meantime, the multi-sport athlete is a thing of the past or an Anders Lee in a million.