It had become an all-too-familiar refrain in speaking with high school coaches and athletic directors.

It seems that nobody wants to play multiple sports any more, or at least hardly anybody. ‘Tis the age of specialization.

It is a problem at the smaller schools, because the total number of athletes is low anyway. At larger schools, each coach wants the best athletes available to play for him or her.

So why are kids turning away from multiple-sport commitments? I believe the biggest reason is college. Parents, for good reason, want and need scholarship help to defray the cost of sending children to college. In theory, if an athlete concentrates on one sport, that athlete will improve more rapidly and attract collegiate notice.

After many years of hearing the single-sport complaint, I began to think about ways to promote the idea of athletic diversification.

The only idea that seemed to have great merit was to create an award to honor that dying breed, the three-sport athlete. I knew that The Herald Bulletin would be more likely to support the plan if it was fleshed out with as many details as possible.

The first obstacle was to find a way to collect candidates. I always admired the plan used by the Anderson Noon Exchange Club to get nominees for the annual Red Haven Award. They lean on the school athletic directors to provide a nominee for each school. So I decided to steal that idea.

But while the Red Haven Award always comes from a Madison County school, I wanted this award to service three other schools in our area with a substantial amount of readers of this newspaper — Shenandoah, Daleville and Madison-Grant.

Next, guidelines needed to be formed for an athlete to qualify for nomination. I wanted to identify the athlete who was truly committed to several sports rather than the ones who might try a sport for a season and then drop it.

So the idea was to establish a minimum of two years that an athlete would need to have played three sports per year. That would still make all but freshmen as possible candidates.

Many of the other details could be hammered out once the overall idea was approved, but one big decision still had to be made. What would the award be called?

Some awards are named for people, some for the accomplishment and some for the sponsor. I liked the people idea. But who would be just the right person who would fit the multi-sport ideal and be a good role model for the winners as well?

That was the easiest and most natural part of the entire process. Anderson native Johnny Wilson seemed perfect. He was a consummate athlete, excelling in virtually anything he attempted. In high school, that was basketball, football and track.

Plus, he easily stood up the good citizen part of the image I had in my mind of who should win this award. Fortunately, he is someone I consider a friend, and he was quick to give me the OK for his name to be used.

With most of the puzzle pieces in place, the next step was to present the idea to THB staffers with the authority to approve it. That group included Sports Editor Adam Wire, Managing Editor Scott Underwood and Publisher Mike Casuscelli. All three were enthusiastic about the idea and have been supportive every step of the way.

It is my hope that this year’s first edition of the award is a success and will help demonstrate to all area prep players how important the three-sport athlete is to all programs.

I am proud of each nominee and hope to be around to see many more given out in successive years.

Rick Teverbaugh’s column is published Thursdays in The Herald Bulletin. To contact Teverbaugh, e-mail rick.teverbaugh@heraldbulletin.com.

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