Three-sport athletes used to be the norm at about any high school over the past decades. It has been interesting to see things start to change a bit over the years, but in some rural areas like Ashe County, the decline of multi-sport athletes has not been as pronounced as in other areas.
With smaller schools that want to experience athletic success in fall, winter and spring sports seasons, obviously the best athletes have to play more than just one sport.
One of the top performing programs over the past few years at ACHS has been the track team. Track athletes, just like anyone else, have to put in the time, hard work and preparation to build success. The Huskies have seen numerous track conference championships, regional qualifiers and state championship qualifiers over the past few years under coach Alex Rollins.
While the team did not win a title this year, the number of top performers on the track team that compete in other sports throughout the year are very high. Zach Outen, Paige Spell, Andrew Tedder, Gareth Berry and Jacob Blevins are just five of the team’s state qualifiers that not only worked hard for track success, but played at least one other sport this year. That doesn’t even take into account the conference championship and regional qualifiers that ACHS had that took part in other sports through the year.
Women’s soccer goalie Chrissy Simmons, who devotes most of her time to soccer and will be playing in college at Methodist University next season, still ran cross country last fall.
In years past, such star athletes like Mallary Clay, Sam Gammons and Aaron Scott play three and sometimes even four sports (Clay ran track and played soccer during the spring).
On the flip side of that, sometimes you do have those athletes that devote themselves to one sport for 365 days a year to be at the top of their game and it has helped them get opportunities to play their sport at the next level.
Appalachian State University basketball player Tommy Spagnolo and ASU soccer player Kebrina Keys are two examples of such athletes that spent as much time as they could working on one sport to be the best that they could be.
Other areas of the state, particularly in large cities, will have athletes who commonly play just one sport and who are highly recruited by many of the largest universities and colleges across the country.
For Ashe County though, it appears that even the most talented young athletes who hope to play a sport at the next level will still continue to use their athleticism in other sports, whether it is to build upon personal success, enjoy the camaraderie of teammates are simply just the love of being active and having things to do outside of the classroom.
Q & A with Haley Maloney, King University
1. Q: Why do you choose the sport you did to keep playing in college?
A: I didn’t choose tennis, I believe that tennis chose me. I always had a dream of pursuing tennis in college. I had always imagined myself playing in college, but it had always seemed like a long term goal that wouldn’t happen. When I discovered that my chances to play were high, I worked harder.
2. Q: Do you miss playing sports you used to play when you were younger?
A: I played basketball, soccer, softball, ran track, and took dance classes. I would have to say I miss elementary and travel basketball. I have many wonderful memories with my family and best friends from that time in my life. I can’t say that I do not miss the others as well. I miss the feeling of stepping onto a stage before i perform in a dance recital, and I miss the little things that inspired me so much during my childhood.
3. Q: Did focusing on one sport help your chances of earning a college scholarship or get noticed by college coaches?
A: I never really focused on one sport, but I did work very hard to have a successful record in my high school tennis career in order to accomplish my dream of playing college tennis.
4. Q: Are you playing your favorite sport or the sport that best helped you get to college?
A: I feel I am most definitely playing my favorite sport. Tennis has taught me how to be patient, and how to be confident. I have always had the dream of playing tennis in college. Tennis is my favorite sport and I am very blessed to have had this opportunity. I have gained many priceless memories at King University with the men’s and women’s tennis team that I’ll never forget. I hope to have many more next year.
Q & A with Daniel Waln, former ACHS sports standout and JV basketball coach
1. Q: Why didn’t you choose to focus on just one sport?
A: I wanted the opportunity to hang out with friends as well as competing with friends. Plus, in a small area such as Ashe County, I have noticed that you have to share your athletes in order to be successful.
2. Q: Do you wish you had focused on just one sport?
A: Not really, I was fortunate to play with some really great players on our basketball team but was also fortunate to be coached by a Hall of Fame coach in Head Coach Bill Strong in football. Coach Strong is a big reason why I kept playing Football; he made me and everyone else on our team a better man, so no, I’m glad I didn’t focus on just one sport.
3. Q: What was your favorite sport and what were you best at?
A: My favorite sport was, without a doubt, basketball. The group of guys that I played with since I was in fourth grade was a big reason for it being my favorite sport. We had made a bond that was very unique and special. I was probably best at basketball. Once again I was fortunate to play with some great players all together. It was helpful being on the floor with two college players in Tatum Lemly and Tommy Spagnolo. Teams were so worried about their scoring ability that it allowed for me to get my shot off.
4. Q: Did playing multiple sports hurt your chance to play at the collegiate level?
A: No way. Not at all. As a college basketball coach now, one of the things that I look for when I’m recruiting a kid is someone that has played multiple sports. If the kid plays football that means he is tough as nails. It’s just a trickle down effect. In no way did it affect me getting the opportunity to play college athletics.
*Nathan Ham can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @NathanHam87