ANDERSON — When Johnny Wilson was in high school, he was a three-sport athlete, but so was everybody else.
“Of the guys who played on the 1946 (state championship basketball) team, every one of them played two other sports,” said Wilson, who played football, basketball and track for the Anderson Indians. “Everybody played football or cross country before basketball and then either track or baseball after basketball.”
The delays between seasons weren’t extensive either.
“Football might end on a Friday and basketball start on a Saturday,” said Wilson. “Basketball might end on a Saturday and track began on Monday. But we never worried about that. It just came natural.”
Since 2008, Wilson’s name has been used to honor two of the area’s best three-sport athletes. The Johnny Wilson Award is presented to one male and one female three-sport athlete each year. This year, nine female athletes and eight male athletes are vying for the award. The winners will be named Wednesday during a ceremony at Anderson Country Club.
In addition to the state championship and Mr. Basketball award, Wilson also played baseball for most of the summer. In that sport he had plenty of talent as well. He would eventually log a year with the Chicago American Giants of the Negro Baseball League.
He doesn’t see specialization as a good thing for today’s athletes.
“I think burnout is a big thing,” he said. “Basketball players play pretty much year ‘round with AAU. Some coaches demand that players play year ‘round.”
He doesn’t find much benefit in the practice of concentrating on one sport.
“If you go watch kids that are playing in like the eighth grade,” said Wilson, “they are trying to dunk the ball, dribbling behind their backs and between their legs. They just aren’t fundamentally sound. The players just try to mimic what they see on TV. That’s why the European players are coming over and having such an impact. They are better fundamentally.”