Luke Graham

Luke Graham

Luke Graham: 3-sport athletes learn values

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In the eyes of many, 2010 Soroco High School graduate Alex Estes’ accomplishments at the 2011 Division II Indoor National Championships probably speak most to his tremendous athletic ability.

The results, a third-place finish in the long jump and accompanying All-American honors, showed what Estes could do with a little collegiate coaching.

But despite that combination of ability and training, no one expected Estes to enter Adams State and become a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference champion All-American in his freshman year.

His showing leads to an interesting point: Three-sport high school athletes shouldn’t be a thing of the past.

For parents reading this, take a page from Estes’ book. The Grizzlies freshman was an all-everything athlete in high school.

During his first two years at Soroco High School, Estes played football, basketball, ran track and field and played baseball for Steamboat Springs High School.

His last two years, he dropped baseball, but still played the other three.

That kind of multi-sport effort is increasingly rare these days.

If we’re honest, the landscape of high school sports has changed greatly, especially in the past 15 years. High school sports are following the way of collegiate sports and, in some cases, professional sports.

High school sports are becoming a business.

Recruiting sites — for a charge — give people measurables and intangibles from high school athletes across the country.

An athletic scholarship now translates to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Because of this, high school athletics have become incredibly specialized. Parents and athletes think that to get a scholarship, a decision on playing one sport has to be made as early as possible.

There is some credibility to that. Playing one sport year-round can give an athlete an eventual advantage.

But it doesn’t have to be the norm. Just in the past four years in Routt County, it’s been uncanny how many athletes have dropped certain sports to specialize in one.

But for those out there that think focusing on just one sport is the best way to a college scholarship, take a look at Estes.

Estes will admit that he knew by the midpoint of his high school career that his future was in track and field. He could have stopped playing everything else and just focused on his jumping. He probably would have earned the same scholarship he has now.

But as Adams State jumping coach Brandon Campbell said, he recruited Estes knowing he played basketball and football.

Campbell knew Estes wasn’t a one-trick athlete. Listening to Campbell talk about what a good teammate Estes was, it’s hard to imagine Estes would have been able to develop that part of his repertoire by just focusing on one individual sport.

Estes still is raw in his development. Campbell thinks he has a future national champion on his hands, once Estes learns the finer parts of jumping.

Could Estes have furthered that by focusing on one sport? Probably. Could he have be­­come the well-rounded athlete and person he is without playing multiple sports? Who knows — but the guess here is no.

He is living proof the three-sport high school athlete isn’t — and shouldn’t — be a thing of the past.

As Estes has proved, sometimes three is actually better than one.

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