There was a time when competing at a high level in multiple sports was the norm. Jim Thorpe played almost everything, Bo Jackson knew football and baseball and Deion Sanders competed in prime time on the gridiron and the diamond.
Today specialization rules the day, as young athletes are often interested or steered toward committing to just one sport. However, in Roosevelt Athletics, there is a culture that embraces, rather than shuns, multi-sport student-athletes.
Seven student-athletes are competing in more than one sport, not counting cross country runners who also run track.
The women’s volleyball team features three two-sport student-athletes. Brooke Lee, a junior and first team All-Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference outside hitter, shifts to the softball diamond in the spring. Sophomore Chelsey Crippen goes from middle blocker in volleyball to a presence on the basketball team, while newcomer Amy Kinney, who excelled in both volleyball and basketball in high school and community college, also plans to play both sports as a Laker.
“I was always more competitive in volleyball, and softball was just a way to have fun,” said Lee, who also is busy with biology studies and a packed schedule of campus organization commitments. “I live for the competitive energy, fire and excitement that I get playing volleyball. On the other hand, softball is amazing. I joined the team halfway through my freshman year and love it. Softball balances out the hectic atmosphere of volleyball.”
Both Lee and Crippen initially came to Roosevelt to solely play volleyball. In Crippen’s case, after her rookie season, the 6-foot 2-inch native of Sherrard, Ill., pursued an opportunity to join the women’s basketball team and gave head coach Keisha Newell’s squad valuable minutes in the frontcourt. She even scored a career-high 22 points off the bench in a road game at Olivet Nazarene.
“I find two-sport athletes display a great deal of appreciation for their sports. Because they are not specialized in one sport year round, there is less room for burnout.”
Keisha Newell, Roosevelt Women’s Basketball Coach
While there are certainly perks to staying so active by playing two sports in college, Crippen admits there are challenges to juggling such a jam-packed schedule. “Balancing academics, practices, games and social life is not easy,” said Crippen, who has played both sports since she was 7 years old. “Since I take 18 credit hours a semester, it is hard to do everything. I think it helps that most of my friends are on either the basketball or volleyball team, making it easier to stay focused since we have the same schedules.”
In addition to Crippen and Kinney, Newell’s squad also has a third two-sport student-athlete in junior Elie Donovan. A hustling three-point specialist on the basketball court, Donovan is now using that same hustle in a longer capacity as a cross country runner for the Lakers.
“Right now I would say running is my favorite sport,” Donovan admitted. “Basketball has always been something I enjoy and I love watching the NBA, but I like running because it pushes me to give everything I have.”
A couple of other two-sport athletes are joining Lee this spring on the softball team. Freshman runner Brianna McCormick and rookie basketball center Taylor Sterkowitz will compete in softball, while also participating in their respective track and basketball seasons, which run simultaneously at times.
“I like the fast-paced life of being a two-sport athlete,” said McCormick, a Fenwick High School graduate who is a pitcher when she is not running. “I’m never bored and there’s rarely a time when I don’t have some sort of workout, open gym, or practice to go to. It keeps me on my feet, and I like that.”
“I love knowing that I am going to be playing two completely different types of games because they are different atmospheres,” said Sterkowitz, who was a decorated athlete at Oak Forest High School.
Newell said she loves two-sport athletes because their skills are transferable. “They often display a high level of toughness and competitiveness,” Newell observed. “I find two-sport athletes also display a great deal of appreciation for their sports. Because they are not specialized in one sport year round, there is less room for burnout.”
All of the two-sport Lakers agreed that having strong bonds with teammates on each of their two squads has helped them manage the tough task of training and competing for more than one sport at the college level. They also concurred that their athletic friendships have made the transition from one season to the next much more enjoyable.
“There’s a feeling of satisfaction knowing I can squeeze everything in and maintain my grades, performance and sanity,” said Lee. “Being on two teams has surrounded me with the support system of two amazing groups of girls and coaches. At the end of the day, it’s all worth it.”