By Travis Stahl
As a culture we love diversity. We want our actors to perform a variety of roles, our teachers to educate students in a plethora of methods and our athletes to entertain us in as many ways as possible. The one athlete, oddly enough, we don’t want to experience a diverse upbringing is those most capable, high school students. Our high school sports culture has evolved into incubating one-sport athletes to “specialize” on their training instead of allowing kids to just be players on the teams they love.
This change in culture is due in large part to the AAU culture in basketball. Basketball players should not play other sports is the mantra AAU and high school coaches preaches to kids in school. Coaches tell the kids the risk of injury is too high and basketball requires players to practice their craft all summer. Baseball coaches tell their players the same thing and high school football coaches want their players in the facility from the day after graduation until the start of the season. So who wins out? Not the kids.
Coaches are forcing high school athletes to chose their sport and ignore the rest. The results are losses for the schools. Smaller schools like Whitko and Churubusco need every available athlete playing every sport in order for their teams to be competitive. As participation in high school sports dwindles it seems counterproductive to coax players into avoiding the sports they have played since they were kids and focus on just one.
Football season used to run in to basketball or wrestling season which ran in to track and baseball season. Then, when school was out you played summer baseball until football practice started again. Kids played every one of these sports with equal enthusiasm because they loved the games and nobody was forcing them into thinking they could only play one. Ron Frickey used to encourage football players at Columbia City to play other sports; he always saw the value in being competitive throughout the entire school year.
These coaches that are forcing athletes to choose one sport are weakening their schools. They are keeping great players from joining their teams and preventing their players from helping other teams at the school win games. Instead of encouraging diversity among sports they are keeping fans from enjoying their school’s athletes on a variety of platforms.