The art of being a multi-sport athlete

Siri Christopherson, Sports Editor

Imagine getting done with your school day at 2:16, heading straight to the track and field meet, sweating it out in the heat through the evening, hightailing it to your club soccer practice at 8:00, toughing it out strenuously until 9:30, and then going home to do your all your homework that’s due the next day. Oh, and going to sleep at some point.
This mega-active life may sound like the average Patriot’s worst nightmare, but for junior and student-athlete Marissa Mills, it’s her common routine during the track and field season while participating in two sports at once.
“It tends to get really hard because I don’t get to come home all the time, and I have a short amount of time to do homework,” Mills said. “Soccer practice goes from 8:00 to 9:30, so I don’t get home until 10:00, and then I have to have dinner and study for classes.”
One of the biggest challenges that multi-sport athletes face is finding a balance between sports, school, sleep, and their social lives. After having multiple practices a day, it can be hard to get enough sleep in addition to finishing homework.
Senior Tyler Deaver plays soccer year-round and was juggling both soccer and cross-country training last fall.
“You have to be a student first,” Deaver said. “When you’re so committed to a sport or multiple sports, it gets hard because you always want to go to practices, and then you leave your homework to the last minute.”
For junior Holden Kooiker, being involved in both Liberty football and club soccer can conflict with his social life in addition to school.
“I’ve been invited to hang out with friends multiple times and I’ve had to say no because I have soccer games or I have practice,” Kooiker said.
Alternatively, some student athletes who participate in every school sports season have different challenges to overcome. Senior Sophie Wartena, who plays soccer in the fall, gymnastics during the winter, and track and field in the spring, says that the process switching between sports can get tricky.
“You build different muscles, and then other muscles tend to weaken if you don’t go out of your way to work them,” Wartena said. “During gymnastics, if I don’t go out of my way to run a long distance or do any sprints, then I can be out of shape for track.”
For Wartena, balancing the crossover between gymnastics and track means sacrificing some of her gymnastics season in order to get back into running shape.
“I’m having to say no to going to KingCo and Districts for gymnastics so I can get ready for track,” Wartena said.
In some cases, handling such a busy schedule requires quitting one sport entirely in order to focus on other sports. For Kooiker and Mills, playing soccer meant giving up running and volleyball, respectively.
“High school soccer is the same time as track, and club soccer is year round, so I was feeling too pressured in freshman and sophomore year to join cross country,” Kooiker said.
“I quit volleyball because it was either soccer or volleyball,” Mills said. “Of course I want to be able to play college soccer, so I quit.”
Despite the many complications of playing multiple sports, the athletes find their experience to be a rewarding one overall.
“It’s really hard,” Mills said, “but it’s worth it in the end, because I love playing sports and just being able to do what I love.”