In-depth: Demands of being a two-sport athlete pushing student-athletes to the brink

by Sean Ellertson

Being a one-sport college athlete is enough of a commitment, but being a rare two-sport creates a dynamic that an average college student can’t even begin to comprehend.

Two sport athletes used to be all the rage, with Hall of Famers such as Jim Brown, Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson and Jackie Robinson excelling in two or more collegiate sports.

Two-sport athlete numbers are falling across the country. At Yale, “There were approximately 50 two-sport athletes 27 years ago when he (squash coach David Talbott) first stepped on campus; now there are only around 11 out of 850,” according to Yale Daily News. 

Today’s college athletics are too demanding for student-athletes to compete in two sports all four years of college, forcing them to quit a sport they love and have worked so hard at. The physical, mental and social demands of being a two sport athletes takes a toll, despite colleges’ best efforts to accommodate the athletes.

(Photo: Google Images)

“During last track season I was pretty much ready to call it quits,” former Fitchburg State enrollee Kevin McDonald. McDonald was a member of the track and football team at Fitchburg State before transferring to Bridgewater State. “It’s not that it was too time consuming or really too difficult. I would say the strain it put on my body was too much for me, especially as a player that’s been injury prone throughout my career. I decided to rather just focus on football and give myself more time to recover before the season and with my football career ending in two seasons.”

Franklin Pierce University student athletes feel similar effects and sentiments.

“Time management became a huge piece of my life as a two sport athlete,” said senior Casey Diana. Diana was a member of the softball team and hockey team for Franklin Pierce. “My whole life I’ve been a constant procrastinator, which led to a lot of struggles academically at the beginning. I quickly learned that study hall was my best friend, because there were days where between the two sports, I’d have three practices and two lifts in addition to my class schedule and doing homework at the end of those days was the last thing I wanted to do.”

Diana had trouble fitting her academic life into her busy schedule because of playing two sports.

“Hockey season ended on a Sunday, and the next morning I was at softball practice at 6 A.M., so there was no downtime at all,” said Diana.

Both McDonald and Diana were forced to quit a sport because of the stress both on their bodies and their minds. Others quit because the demands and stress of playing two sports drive them to dislike a sport.

“My freshman year I had the privilege to play both football and run track,” said sophomore Trey Grey, in an interview over email. “For who may not know track is a very demanding sport, with that said if an athlete does not genuinely love the sport and isn’t willing to give 100 percent at every moment then it is very hard to maintain self motivation throughout the season. With that said I felt it was best for me to stop running track rather than disrespect my teammates and coaches by not giving my all 100 percent of the time.”

Across the country, at all levels of collegiate athletics, students are faced with the challenges of balancing two sports with academics. Some students manage to keep pushing through the challenges and excel. For some, the task it too difficult, causing them to drop a sport before their grades suffer.

The pressure put on by coaches, parents, teammates and professors is becoming too much for some two sport athletes to handle.

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