Democrat File Photo
Tri-Valley’s Mareena DiMilia and Aric Boyes, shown above, were given permission by athletic director Derek Adams to compete in two sports in the same season. Most schools in Sullivan County allow the double dipping, but only to select students who can handle the extra time demands.
Story by Eli Ruiz and Kayla Greco
SULLIVAN COUNTY June 14, 2013 Athletes participating in multiple sports certainly doesn't qualify as some new phenomenom. There was of course Vincent "Bo" Jackson in the late 80s and very early 90s. Jackson played both professional football and baseball as a running back for the Los Angeles (now Oakland) Raiders and left field for the Kansas City Royals. Then there was "Neon" Deion Sanders, who like Jackson played both professional football and baseball for the Falcons and Braves of Atlanta.
Jackson and Sanders were pro athletes, though, and as impressive as their feat was, they played their respective sports in separate seasons, and baring injury, the two sports football and baseball had negligible influences on each other and were far enough apart on the calendar to not cause either player any scheduling conflicts.
But for several local high school athletes, it’s a different story. They not only partake in multiple sports, but do so in the same calendar season. At most schools, that is. Sullivan West does not let their athletes double dip. In general, the decision on whether or not to allow students to play two sports at one time seems to be left to the respective athletic directors or an athletic policy and not any overall school policy.
"Generally they ask me first," said Tri-Valley athletic director Derek Adams, who solely makes the decision at his school. "It's so few [the amount of requests], though, it really doesn't come up too much here. It really takes a special kind of student/athlete to pull it off," adds Adams.
Special indeed. Adams weighs factors such as academic course loads and possible scheduling conflicts before determining whether a student can play two sports at the same time.
For the athletes themselves, they simply love to play two sports that just happen to be scheduled at the same time.
"I do it because for some reason I really enjoy the challenge of managing my time effectively and fitting everything in, said Tri-Valley senior Mareena DiMilia, who has played multiple sports in the same season since she was a freshman. “I love keeping busy, but I absolutely love, love, love basketball. I also very much like track, so it kind of feels natural for me to do both. I just can't chose."
At Tri-Valley, DiMilia and others like Aric Boyes, who played baseball and threw the shot put simultaneously this spring, must declare which sport is their primary sport.
"This makes it clear which sport takes precedent over the other if any scheduling conflicts do take place," said Adams. "When a situation like that does come up, the coach for the primary sport can just say 'No, I need you here today.'"
With experience in other state school districts, Adams relates that the policy hasn't worked everywhere. "It's really all about effective communication between the players and coaches," he says. "If there's not effective communication between all parties involved, it just doesn't work.
“And as for the athletes, it takes an extremely high level of commitment and responsibility. I'm a firm believer that it’s important for some of our very best athletes to contribute to multiple [sports] programs and when it works out it's beneficial to not only the athlete, but the coaches and the teams as a whole as well."
As for DiMilia, who played both basketball and indoor track in the winter and softball and outdoor track in the spring, it's all about the team. Asked why she chose both basketball and softball as her primary sports over track the sport that garnered her an athletic scholarship to throw weights and hammers at Division I Sacred Heart University in Connecticut DiMilia said, "I based that decision on the fact that with both basketball and softball, it's more of a team sport. Track is more of an individual sport and I'd feel so much worse if I had to miss a basketball or softball game for a track meet. I just wouldn't want to let my team down like that."
DiMilia does, though, admit to some difficulties when it comes to her academics, explaining, "I think it's affected my school work a little bit. It's really hard to fit everything in. In the winter, I'd have basketball practice from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., and then I'd have to head off to track practice, so it certainly takes a good chunk of time from other important things. You have to plan your time very well to succeed at this for sure. If you know your priorities, it's manageable.
In stark contrast to the rest of the county schools is the Sullivan West School District. Students at the school looking to emulate DiMilia and Boyes had better think again as the school's athletic policy explicitly prohibits student's participation in more than one sport in a single season. Sullivan West athletic director David Franscevicz who led the Jeff-Youngsville athletic program before the merger, and where the practice was similarly banned as well says it's just a matter of policy.
"We do not allow for single season multi-sport athletes, Franscevicz explains, adding, "we made a commitment when the schools merged for maximum [student] participation. Two sports in a single season would go against that policy.
"With only so many spots on the athletic squads at the school, it's our belief that a student participating in two sports in a single season is essentially taking a spot from another student who might otherwise like to play one of the same sports," said Franscevicz.
Which doesn’t sit well with some of Sullivan West’s athletes. “Why would we not want to have the best athletes on our teams, no matter how many sports they’re playing at the same time,” said one student who did want his name used. “I want to win games and I know there were guys who could have helped my team win more this year, but were not allowed to play.”
At Monticello, similar to Tri-Valley, a protocol is in place that requires students who wish to be two-sport athletes to select a primary sport. The student-athlete’s decision must be approved by both of the coaches, the parent/ guardian and the school athletic director.
Sophomore Yami Reyes competed on both the softball and track and field teams during the spring season.
“I like doing two sports because it keeps me focused and keeps me occupied,” said Reyes. “It also keeps me relaxed and out of trouble.”
Matt Daly, coach of Monticello’s girls’ track and field has coached several two-sport athletes and actually disapproves of upperclassmen who choose to be two sport athletes.
Daly explains how these students should take the place of role models and prove their dedication to one team. “When a student’s an underclassman and they’re trying out a couple sports, that fine. But once a student gets to be a senior or junior, they should take that leadership position on the team.”
Fallsburg has a slightly different policy when it comes to double dippers. There, students also have to pick a primary sport and have it approved, but only varsity athletes have the option of being a two-sport athlete.
Nicolle Freemen graduated from Fallsburg High School 2012 and participated in both varsity football cheerleading and varsity volleyball at the same time. She agrees with the “varsity-only” policy for two- sport participants.
“Most of the girls on the varsity level know the routines, they know all the plays, know how to train and know how to manage their time,” said Freeman, now a cheerleader at RIT. “Because JV and modified are still learning all these things, they won’t have time learn and play two sports.”
Freemen was faced with several difficult choices when it came down to her priority sport.
“The coaches didn’t tell me which games to come to and when to come. A lot of the responsibility was put on me to decide which team needed me more that game.”
Liberty also adheres to a different two-sport policy. Each student must have a "Multi-Sport Contract" signed by coaches, a parent/ guardian and the athletic director. Additionally, the student is responsible for choosing a primary and secondary sport. If a student’s grades are suffering as a result of playing two sports, the coaches and athletic director have the power to remove the student’s secondary sport.
According to Liberty’s athletic director Jon Wilhelm, “being a two-sport athlete is a privilege, not a right.” Wilhelm’s stepson Ryan Henry played both baseball and golf for Liberty this spring.
Perhaps DiMilia said it best, though, when asked to offer some advice for any local high school athletes with ambitions similar to hers: "They just need to understand that it's going to take a lot of hard work and dedication. If you're willing to try to spread yourself thin like this that's great, but you have to be sure that you're fully capable of making the necessary sacrifices and you have to be prepared to give both of the sports, along with your academics, one-hundred-percent. If you can't do that then it's obviously not for you."