At the high school level, three-sport athletes are not an uncommon commodity, as plenty of kids participate in a fall, winter and spring sport.
While there has been no final decision made on the state of the fall sports season in New Hampshire, it is fair to question whether some sports will change seasons.
“The biggest challenge is the unknown, we just don’t know what things are going to look like with school in the fall and so we therefore don’t know what things are going to look like athletically,” Keene High School Athletic Director Michael Atkins said. “We have to do things as safely as possible.”
There have already been rumblings about the potential of baseball, softball and tennis being moved to the fall, switching seasons with football, soccer and field hockey, which would move to the spring.
These changes would present multiple questions.
The obvious one being whether an athlete gets his or her sport switched into a season where they play another sport. For example, a football player that typically plays lacrosse in the spring, may have to choose one or the other.
“If a sport like football moves to the spring and has to compete with lacrosse, that could be an issue,” Atkins said. “There are a lot of schools that have football players that play lacrosse and a lot of the kids will probably end up choosing one or the other. We prefer not to put our kids in that situation.”
There is the possibility for an athlete to participate in multiple sports, according to the NHIAA bylaws, but it is a daunting task when taking into consideration the challenges athletes would be presented with. Some of these include the academic workload, balance of a practice and game schedule for two sports and the overall health of athletes.
“The issue becomes the multi-sport kid and how does that kid participate in two sports at the same time if that has to happen,” Atkins said. “By the book, a kid could participate in two sports, but the hard part is how can the kid manage their schedule, so it works the right way for everybody.”
Additionally, any athlete that is not a professional is considered a student-athlete, because academics are prioritized. Competing in a sport while maintaining good grades is a challenge but adding another sport to the fold could put an overload of pressure on a high school athlete.
Healthwise, especially if a football player is also playing lacrosse, the risk of injury increases on the field. With two physical sports such as those two, it would become a big injury risk, and one that some athletes would not be worth risking.
Playing multiple sports in the same season has been done.
Callie O’Neil was a four-sport athlete at Keene High School. There have also been soccer players that kick for the football team, according to Atkins.
While there are examples to point to, how common it would be if this scenario becomes the reality would ultimately be something to monitor.
Would it become the norm for athletes in the situation that two of their sports are in the same season?
Based on a Twitter poll taken by the Sentinel Sports account, two out of seven respondents said they would be willing to play multiple sports in the same season and two out of seven said they would not be willing to. Those ranked tied for second in terms of answers.
The most popular answer was that it would be too much for an athlete in terms of scheduling.
While seven respondents are not a wide range by any means, it already shows that some would not be willing to play two sports in the same season.
Undoubtedly already in challenging times, high school athletes had their spring season taken away and if sports end up switching seasons for 2020-21, it will certainly end up forcing some kids to have to choose one sport, something Atkins made clear he doesn’t want to see happen.