Saturday, December 7, 2002
Steamboat Springs A long time ago, in a world that has long since passed me by, high school was a place where athletes came to play.
The athletes were not interested in just football, volleyball or some other sport exclusively. They were interested in all the sports the school had to offer in most cases an athlete would play at least three different sports each year, and sometimes a couple of different sports in a single season.
Steamboat still has a few of these sports-loving athletes left, but over the years the list of athletes who want to play more than one sport in a single school year has dwindled.
In towns along the Front Range the situation is even worse.
These day's, students feel pressured to play just one sport and often join club teams and go to off-season camps when other high school sports are in full swing.
They are either volleyball or basketball players, but rarely both. They will play high school soccer in the fall, indoor soccer in the winter and then switch back to the grass in the spring to play with a club team.
And who would blame them?
Most college basketball coaches could care less what kind of volleyball player their top high school recruit is, and what volleyball coach is going to lose sleep just because next year's best middle blocker can't hit a jump shot or his setter can't drive the lane?
In recent years, the single sport athlete has become the norm, which in the end robs sports of some of its best moments. The days when athletes would test the waters of other sporting endeavors have been reduced to middle schools and I get the feeling that experience might be endangered.
But nobody is to blame for this latest trend.
It's a sign of the times.
In today's world, sports have become another way to get into good colleges. Today how a student performs on the basketball court matters almost as much as learning math, science and English in the classroom.
For some athletes a solid-state championship run or a tournament MVP can mean as much as scoring a 1500 on the SAT for the bookworm.
Maybe that's why the story of Jeremy Bloom is so refreshing.
He's the Loveland High School graduate who plays football for the University of Colorado when he isn't pursuing an Olympic medal. He also skies on the World Cup tour when linebackers and defensive backs aren't chasing him en route to the end zone.
He is also the defending World Cup mogul champion and his football team played in the Big 12 Title game last night.
In a world were athletes are rewarded for focusing on a single sport, this guy has made a name for himself in both football and skiing.
He even turned down a deal with Tommy Hilfiger USA, so that he would comply with NCAA rules and remain eligible to play football for the Buffs.
A national bowl game and an invitation to the Winter Olympic Games in the same year that says something for a guy who decided not to focus on a single sport.
Unfortunately, not every athlete can be like Bloom, and in today's pressure-filled world of sports, athletes are being encouraged more and more to choose one sport usually by the time they reach high school.
That's when the love for the game becomes a drive to keep playing the game.
Only the best athletes will get a shot at playing in college and nobody can blame a student athlete for focusing on the future.
The downside is by the time a student becomes a senior they are more focused on impressing college scouts than pursuing the reason they started playing sports in the first place to have some fun.