By Michael Sugerman
They jog up the court, aware of their teammates in the paint. They run up the field, arms open wide, waiting for the ball to fall into their tentative hands. They then decide to sprint around the track with all of their might and speed. Whether they play the sports they do to be with their friends, for fitness, because of coach encouragement or simply because of their own enthusiasm, multiple senior athletes strayed from their main sports and developed skills in others this year.
“It is good to play all the sports that you can for as long as you can,” basketball Head Coach Greg Hilliard said. “Limiting yourself and specializing too early is just missed opportunity. The athlete must decide what he can manage. It is our job as coaches to make that work for them as much as we can.”
Hilliard’s enthusiasm to get as much out of high school athletics as one can was surely absorbed by senior athletes, as reflected in their participation in multiple sports.
Some athletes decided to participate in multiple sports to stay in shape for others, or perhaps improve their athleticism for other sports. Varsity football and basketball player Noor Fateh ’11 considers football to be his “go-to” sport; however, he participated in the track program for the first time this season. Fateh considered his best events to be the 400-meter and the 4×400-meter relay.
“This year, some of my friends were doing track, and since I hope to play college football, I figured I should participate to stay in shape,” Fateh said. “It turned out to be a good decision.”
The same goes for Nick Firestone ’11. A varsity football and basketball player, he, like Fateh, considers himself to be primarily a football player; however, this year he ran the 100-meter and the 4×100-meter relay.
“I saw track as a way to improve my speed and endurance,” he said.
David Burton ’11 is primarily a basketball player, but has played volleyball since his freshman year. Burton joined the team to increase his vertical jump and continue to enhance his athleticism.
“[Basketball and volleyball] are defensively similar in that both utilize athleticism and height to jump high, use height to one’s advantage, and block,” he said.
Many athletes were encouraged by coaches to participate, in many ways following Hilliard’s mantra that high school athletes should not limit themselves. Firestone said that coaches had asked him multiple times if he was interested in doing track, as did Fateh, who said that track coaches very publically were enthusiastic about his participation in the program. Burton said that volleyball coaches, seeing his height as an advantage, encouraged him to play. Damiene Cain ’11, a starting varsity basketball player, was also encouraged by coaches to play volleyball in his sophomore year. Coach enthusiasm further enhanced his desire to play, and he joined the team. Head Track Coach Jonas Koolsbergen explained an overall perspective on why coaches are enthusiastic about the participation of other varsity athletes.
“Whenever athletes play multiple sports they bring skills, training and experiences that are a valuable addition to what we do,” Koolsbergen said. ”They as individuals involved with us become better athletes on a total level. They have tremendous new experiences. They become faster. They get better control over their bodies and their athletic gifts.”
Koolsbergen said that football and basketball players Fateh, Firestone and Lewis Dix ’11 voiced that they wished that had started track earlier; they felt they would have become successful track athletes had they joined the track program sooner.
Most athletes’ participation was in part determined by team camaraderie. Although Fateh was not a starter on the varsity basketball team, “they were my second family away from home,” he said. “I knew I was going to be with my boys, my brothers.”