Shortly after Ohio State University won the inaugural College Football Playoff championship game in January, the Twitter account @ohiovarsity posted a graphic showing that of the 47 student-athletes head coach Urban Meyer recruited, 42 of them had been multi-sport athletes in high school.
Current Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carrol used to be head coach of University of Southern California; Carrol said while coaching at USC he wanted students who could compete in more than one sport. While the opportunities to compete in multiple sports at the collegiate level may be more limited than in high school, this doesn’t stop Cobber athletes.
Multi-sport athletes at Concordia are nothing new, according to Marv Roeske, head coach of the Concordia women’s cross-country team as well as the indoor and outdoor women’s track and field teams.
“Track and field is a good melting pot sport,” Roeske said. “Even if it’s not their main sport it’s a great supplemental sport.”
Roeske said that besides keeping student-athletes competitive during what would normally be their off-season, track provides a good level of fitness.
“Track is all about developing strength, power, speed, fitness,” Roeske said, adding that multi-sport student-athletes who participate in track “can tolerate a higher workload.”
Of the 55 women on the track and field team last spring, 38 were multi-sport athletes from the sports of cross-country, soccer, basketball, volleyball and hockey.
“I don’t know if you could say that about any other MIAC school,” Roeske said.
Kristin Dreschel, a hockey player during the winter and thrower during the spring, said that hockey comes first.
“I feel like I definitely focus on hockey more,” she said. “I’ve played hockey ever since I could walk. I have a big love for the game.”
Competing in hockey during the winter and track and field during the spring also creates an overlap in scheduling. For Dreschel it means missing the entire indoor track season.
“The track coaches are very understanding,” Dreschel said. “You don’t need to be [involved] in the indoor and outdoor season to be on the team.”
Roeske says that the addition of multi-sport athletes, such as Dreschel, has traditionally made the outdoor team more successful than the indoor team.
For Anna Skow-Anderson, a volleyball player during the fall and a participant in the heptathlon during the spring, competing in the seven different track and field events provides a nice change.
“It keeps me in shape,” Skow-Anderson said. “If you do one sport for too long you tend to overanalyze it.”
Even though track may be a common supplementary second sport among Cobber student-athletes, it is not the only option. Senior Alex Sandahl plays both football and baseball, and says that he does not necessarily have a primary or secondary sport.
“I think of my primary sport by season,” Sandahl said. “In the fall my primary sport is football and in the spring I switch gears to baseball.”
Sandahl says that the decision to play both sports instead of just focusing on one came from a lack of decisiveness.
“A big reason why I still play both is because I can’t really choose between the two,” he said.
Being a collegiate student-athlete is a big time commitment, and adding a sport does not make things any easier, especially when it comes to balancing an academic workload with an athletic workload.
“Time management is definitely hard,” Dreschel said. “When you have two sports it’s double hard.”
Skow-Anderson says that academics come first, except under special circumstances.
“During playoffs that can flip-flop,” she said.
And for Skow-Anderson time management is simple.
“If I have less time, I waste less time.”
Sandahl says that academically, he has been able to fit everything in, including his student-teaching during the football season.
“So far through three years I’ve survived just fine,” Sandahl said. “It’s all about making priorities and being smart with my time.”
The extra workload by multi-sport athletes doesn’t go unnoticed by their single-sport peers. Sam Mattson, a pitcher on the baseball team who was a multi-sport athlete while in high school, says that he has a greater appreciation for the student-athletes that are able to compete in multiple sports while in college.
“Two sports would be too much,” Mattson said.
Mattson says that the baseball team can be gone for two or three days at a time, which requires student-athletes to learn the classroom material that they missed on their own. For multi-sport athletes, missing twice the classroom material means double the self-teaching for student athletes.
“You have to be your own professor,” Mattson said.
Playing multiple sports may be a good way to avoid burnout, but Dreschel and Sandahl admit that it can also be overwhelming at times.
“I’ve thought a lot about focusing on one sport. Especially when I get really busy with school,” Sandahl said. “But I have never felt that I would gain enough [by specializing in one sport] to justify what I get out of playing both.”
If Dreschel has to give something up, she says that it will be track.
“I would really hope I never had to miss hockey,” she said. “[But] if it came down to that I would. My future is important.”
Skow-Anderson said that balancing spring volleyball practices with track and field practices “can get to be much.” However as a senior this year Skow-Anderson says the practice schedule this spring will be less overwhelming since she will not have to participate in spring volleyball practices.
Mattson agrees that sports can play off of each other and help in ways such as conditioning and staying competitive, but also thinks that having an off-season to focus on only one sport can help as well.
“It’s pretty tough [participating in] one sport,” Mattson said. “If you [participate in multiple sports] kudos to you.”