By Charlie Norgaard
OES is filled to the brim with impressive athletes, with many going on to seek athletic careers at the collegiate level.
However, a mindset that I call “single sport specialization” has plagued many athletes, not just at OES, but throughout the nation. I spoke to Athletic Director, Dennis Sullivan, about his philosophy regarding single sport specialists versus multi sport athletes.
Sullivan broke down his philosophy into three main points. The first of which addresses the mindset of the athlete. The main turn away from playing multiple sports is the fear of not excelling in their ‘off-season’ sports. Sullivan says that it’s important for athletes to be on a team “where they aren’t the star of the team”. He notes that knowing your place on a team, without being the star, builds a more cooperative and competitive athlete, which leads me to Sullivan’s second point, which is competitiveness.
Sullivan preaches a strong sense of competition in every athlete. He’s not just talking about a desire to win, but a desire to improve yourself and your teammates every time you step on the field. Time and time again, Sullivan has walked into the weight room to see kids doing single arm rows and bicep curls that they got from the MMA magazine, because bigger biceps means better athletic performance, right? Wrong.
“You are not competing, or even training, (such as following a typical weightlifting routine) you’re just working out like any other 50 year old fat guy,” says Sullivan. If you are going to invest in off-season training, get a teammate, friend, sibling, or anybody to join, just make sure that it’s somebody who wants to outwork you and wants to push you far beyond your comfort zone.
Sullivan’s third reason involves the skill of versatility. Having coached lacrosse for more than 15 years, Sullivan has noted that his best lacrosse players are multi sport athletes. Sullivan says that his multi sport athletes understand and execute concepts much more fluidly. By playing another sport, they are exercising skills and concepts that are directly transferable into their other sport(s).
Additionally, college recruiters will always favor a multi sport athlete over a specialist. Having talked with college recruiters and coaches for years, Sullivan has heard this question over and over again, “What else can they do?”. Coaches don’t care if you are just ‘good at your sport’ because they are looking for true athletes. Not lacrosse players, not tennis players, but well versed, capable athletes. Someone who can effectively compete on the basketball court, and then pick up a lacrosse stick and compete at a varsity level.
Sullivan is an incredible example of the ideal multi-sport athlete. Sullivan played varsity football, basketball, and lacrosse, and was captain of all three teams his senior year. Through his athletic career, he led his football and lacrosse teams to several state championship titles, and was recognized as the top athlete in his class at Ridgewood High School. But despite being the ultimate athlete, Sullivan was a mere 5’7” at 145 pounds his senior year. After High School, Sullivan played division one lacrosse at Brown University where he once again led the team to two more national championship titles.
This truly proves that fiercely competitive athletes, let alone multi sport athletes truly do achieve great heights. For those who wish to play at a collegiate level, do not specialize in ‘your sport’, seek to make yourself the ultimate athlete.