The Herald Bulletin

May 8, 2013

Rick Teverbaugh: Specialty players longshot gamble

The Herald Bulletin

— I have no doubt that nearly all parents have their kids’ best interests at heart at all times.

But when they allow or even encourage a son or daughter to specialize in one sport or merely follow the suggestion of a coach to do that same thing, are they really accomplishing the aforementioned goal?

In a time when many athletes focus on one sport and play it nearly year-round has reached near epidemic status, it was once again refreshing to see a room of three-sport athletes for Wednesday’s Johnny Wilson Awards.

What I saw from the assembled 15 athletes representing nine of the 11 high schools in our area, were accomplished performers in their chosen sports. These weren’t players who reside at the end of the bench and rarely get into a contest until after the outcome is already decided.

The argument for specialization is that it is the only way to develop skills good enough to earn a college scholarship and perhaps beyond that a professional career. That argument grows weaker by the year.

Many of the 15 nominees for the Johnny Wilson Awards are going to play in college and are going to get some money toward getting that education because of their athletic skills. So getting that scholarship is possible without focusing on a single sport. College is soon enough to narrow the choice to a single sport.

The second part involves playing as a professional. What percentage of the area athletes who focus on one sport actually end up playing that sport as a means of making a living? The percentage might be close to the same as buying a winning lottery ticket.

At Wednesday’s luncheon at Anderson Country Club, Wilson warned that those pointing toward being the next Michael Jordan might be facing a huge uphill climb. He pointed a finger at basketball coaches for trying to get players to give up all but that one sport. I agree it feels that way much of the time.

But one stat from the 2013 nominees seems to point out that not all coaches are trying to do that or at least not all of them are successful.

Of the 15 nominees with three or more sports on their résumé, all of them played basketball as one of their sports. I can’t recall that happening in any of the past five years of this award.

The two overall winners, Anderson’s Darien Thompson and Pendleton Heights’ Kurt Talbert, experienced success in basketball. Thompson was on a sectional championship team in 2012 and Talbert was on a sectional championship team in both 2012 and 2013.

Both are well-rounded athletes and both are well-rounded people.

The Johnny Wilson Awards are a yearly reminder that quality can come to the surface in many different sports within the same athlete. Now I just wish that more parents would encourage that.

Sports Editor Rick Teverbaugh’s columns appear twice weekly.