Thursday, July 23, 2009

Double Play

Here at TigerBlog HQ, we are currently working on the athletics calendar that has become an annual publication. The calendar actually started about 15 years ago as a "Sports Annual" piece that had one page about each varsity team from the year before and has since evolved first to a publication that had a different theme each year and now has extended that concept into the calendar format.

Judging by the responses we've gotten, the calendar has been everyone's favorite. In the interest of full disclosure, the calendar is called our "Unified Appeal," which serves as the primary fund-raising piece that we produce.

Having said that, this year's calendar will be focusing on a review of the decade, one that has been overwhelmingly successful for Princeton athletics. As part of the production of the calendar, the TigerBlog staff was selecting some of the top male and female athletes, and the discussion soon turned to whether some of the top two-sport athletes were better at Sport A or Sport B.

Will Venable, for instance, is a good example. Was he a better baseball player or basketball player at Princeton? He's a Major League Baseball player now, so clearly the temptation would be to say baseball. Still, judged solely on his Princeton career, it's a toss-up.

There have been some outstanding two-sport athletes at Princeton this decade, more on the women's side than the men's. Elizabeth Pillion. Julie Shaner. Theresa Sherry. Rachel Becker. Holly McGarvie.

Pillion was featured in the NCAA Hall of Champions a few years ago after the remarkable achievement of playing in the NCAA Final Four in both soccer and lacrosse. She was part of an exhibit on two-sport athletes, and as part of the exhibit, TigerBlog was asked why there are so few collegiate two-sport athletes anymore.

TB remembers a time not all that long ago when the women's lacrosse roster and field hockey roster had huge overlap. There were multiple football players who played another sport.

Now it is a huge rarity, so much so that it stands out when there is a McGarvie or a Jonathan Meyers these days. When TB was asked about it back when Pillion was featured, his response was that the reason there are so few two-sport college athletes now is that there are so few two-sport 14-year-olds.

The pressure on kids in the TigerBlog Jr. age-range to pick one sport over all the others, and the time demands placed on them, almost make playing multiple sports impossible for those a year or two away from high school, let alone college.

To be on the travel soccer team in the spring, you have to play in the fall. Or for baseball, if you want to play on the travel team in the spring and summer, you have to play fall ball as well. Hockey and basketball have become year-round commitments.

Many coaches put pressure on kids to focus on that one sport, and many parents with dreams of college scholarships go along with it. This happens, despite the fact that studies (and common sense) would suggest getting away from the primary sport in favor of another is a good idea.

Nearly 25 years ago, TigerBlog wrote about an athlete at West Windsor-Plainsboro High named Dave Arendas, who was an all-state football, basketball and baseball player who went on to play in the College World Series at North Carolina. The idea of having a player that good in three sports at the time wasn't unusual; Arendas had a few teammates who played all three as well. Today, it would be almost unheard of to see players doing that.

It makes the current two-sporters here, the ones who have gone against the current trend, even more unique and special.


Anonymous said...

Curious that Tiger Blog so loves the annual yearbook that features each time somehow. This Reader thumbs through it quickly, and deposits it into recycling almost immediately.

Only a very dyed Orange and Black fan -- or an athlete's parents-- would find it of interest. Reminds This Reader of a slightly glossier version of a high school yearbook, where all teams are crammed into the allotted pages, with amateurish design.

Go figure.

Anonymous said...

I like the calendar. I think it looks nice, and I like that you can keep in on your wall all year.