South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

The death of the three-sport athlete

Another View

May we all bow our heads in a moment of silence to celebrate and remember one of the true icons in high school sports. The three-sport athlete.

For 30-plus years I have covered high school and college sports and a lot has changed since those early days. In fact, change always tends to be a good thing in the long run. Some of those good things are the replacement of an unforgiving football playoff selection process, as well as schools adding more sports such as lacrosse, water polo and boys volleyball.

But what was once a staple in just about every high school across the country, has now become a rarity. When I run across a student athlete that is a true three-sport athlete, I almost have to pinch myself.  What I mean by “true three-sport athlete,” is someone that competes in three, non-related sports throughout the course of a school year.

So if you run cross country, indoor and outdoor track, it doesn’t really qualify because they’re all related. Just to be clear, I’m not picking on runners, because I have the utmost respect for the craft. The kind of student athlete I’m referring to is the stereotypical football, basketball and baseball student athlete. Or say they play girls softball, swimming and soccer.

They are going by the way of the dodo bird and it’s ultimately going to kill high school sports in the long run. If you think that I’m exaggerating, just know that there are sports at schools here in good ole’ south St. Louis County that are struggling and I mean really struggling to field a complete varsity roster.

So why is that? I’m more than happy to explain.

Part of it is changing demographics within school districts to a point where the sport struggles for years and years (Mehlville softball being an example) and then you have a group of kids come in and completely turn a program around.

The real culprit to this growing trend is — wait for it — pay-to-play club sports.

There. I said it and I’m probably going to offend just about every parent out there that shells out thousands upon thousands of dollars for their kid to play club soccer, travel baseball, softball or even swimming. But these pay-to-play club sports are slowly killing high school sports, and if you think I’m wrong, keep reading.

Back in the 80s, most kids played Catholic Youth Council soccer for the local Catholic parish, and if they were really good, they played club soccer. In fact the St. Louis Youth Soccer Association (SLYSA) states that it has grown from 500 players in 1975 to over 15,000 boys and girls representing over 1,000 teams. Seriously?

Yes, soccer has grown in popularity by leaps and bounds, but this is St. Louis ladies and gentleman, and soccer runs through our blood. Every kid I knew growing up played fall CYC soccer and maybe they did an indoor league during the winter or spring and then played baseball and swam on the local summer club swim team.

But the problem is this:

As parents, we want what is best for our children. In fact, we sign them up for a local club that has tryouts and deep down, we hope that maybe it leads to a love for the game and who knows, a college scholarship.

But are we really doing what is best for our children? Is playing a college sport really worth the time as well as the mental anguish of dealing with the cesspool of toxic college coaches that love to hold scholarships over their student athletes’ heads?

Depending on the level of play, some pay-to-play club sports forbid their players from competing for their local high school. Just why is that? Look no further than your wallet, because pay-to-play club sports want that monthly revenue to come in from the dues paid to them.

Keeping kids from playing high school sports, much less multiple sports, robs them of some of our greatest memories in high school. From game-winning goals in overtime to come from behind victories as the anchor on the school’s relay team. Moments like that are where legends are made and those memories live on, forever. You can’t get that from a pay-to-play club sports, folks.

I rest my case.