In today’s high school sports world, it seems like each sport is getting more and more specialized. Kids are playing their season, then starting to prepare for the next season of that sport right away. What is shrinking are the days of the three sport athlete. It is quite alarming to me to see 8, 9, and 10 year old kids (and by that I mean their parents) decide their athletic future at that young age. I have already spoken about the need for parents to seek out the Holy Grail of an athletic scholarship, so I will refrain. There is however, one question I would like to ask these parents:
If your child was good at a certain sport, does that mean they were meant to do it?
If someone really ponders that question for a while, it can drive one crazy. So many answers to that question, and so many variables and options. Playing one sport will, in theory, make you as good as can be in that sport. Playing three sports will keep the body in shape, and certain movements in those other sports will translate into each of the other sports. If only there was a way, or a case study that would answer that nagging question.
The case of Solon’s Drew Pickus
Drew and my son are the same age. They are seniors at Solon High School. I have known Drew since he was knee high. They have played sports together through the Solon Rec and other outlets since they were 5 years old. I have seen A TON of Drew playing A TON of sports throughout his life, What I didn’t see coming was the eventually path he decided to take. It’s a great lesson to be learned.
If there was a Rec sport, Drew played it. In baseball, he was a left handed hitter with speed, and also pitched. He was one of the better soccer players at his age, and always seemed to score a goal or two every game. He was a terror in the open field while playing flag football. He was a point guard on every basketball team he played on. His teams ALWAYS WON. He wasn’t dominant in any sport, but he was very good at all of them.
As the middle school years approached, Drew still was active in all sports. He played travel baseball with the Solon Cobras (Cobra Fever!! Catch it!!). Travel basketball with the Solon Runners, and St. Rita in Solon. He made the Solon Middle School soccer team, and even ran sprints for the track team. It was obvious his love for sports. As a freshman, Drew made the JV soccer team, played travel soccer in the off season, and it seemed like soccer was what he had finally chosen to do. He had a very good season as a freshman on the soccer team, so his athletic future was decided, right?
In the words of ESPN’S Lee Corso….Not so fast my friend!!
Drew flipped the script. It was almost like he said to himself “I have played all these other sports, I am going to decide to try something different”. So he did
He wanted to become a pole vaulter
I wanted Drew to at least go out for Track because it would keep him in condition for soccer. After the first two days of practice, Drew came home and I asked him if he was running the 100 or the 200. He said neither…the pole vault…. Hal Pickus
What? A pole vaulter? Talk about coming out of left field. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY saw this coming. After his freshman year of soccer, Drew decided on his new passion.
I was just finishing up with a set of sprints in the 200. I looked over at the pole vault pit, and it looked cool. I am always up for a challenge, and it was something out of the ordinary. I decided then and there that I wanted to try it….Drew Pickus
One would look at Drew as a freshman, all 5 foot nothing, 100 and nothing, and wonder how he was going to pull this off. There is no need to wonder anymore. He has turned himself into one of the best pole vaulters in school history.
In just two years of pole vaulting, Drew already sits second in school history as far as the indoor record, and is shooting to break the outdoor record this season. He has a personal best of 14’2″, that seems to change weekly. That is despite missing the majority of his junior year of track with a pulled hamstring. It was that injury and the emotions that went with it, that got Drew feeling that this indeed his passion.
Missing my junior year really taught me about patience, determination and will. It was about seven months until I could vault again. It was really hard seeing your teammates and knowing you couldn’t be out there with them. The first week back, I felt it again. The adrenaline rush. It filled me with great joy knowing I could compete again…. Drew Pickus
He quickly became the number one pole vaulter on the track team. He fooled everyone who may have thought he was just doing this to stay active (myself included). Want to talk about dedication? Over the fall and winter of last year, Drew was making a 90 minute trek to Massillion and back three days a week for additional training.
What does the story of Drew Pickus have to do with playing one sport or three?…..It’s about finding your niche, and everything involved in it
Finding your niche in a lot of ways, is finding your passion. Something that you wake up every day wanting to do. Something that can have a great effect on you as a person. Speaking to Drew, it’s pretty amazing what vaulting has done for him as a person. He was always the kind of kid that you had to seriously prompt to get information out of. Extremely shy would be an understatement. He has blossomed into a very respectful young man who speaks with a certain confidence. A confidence that comes from doing something he is passionate about. The confidence thing is unpredictable. Sometimes it may take a while, sometimes not. What can’t be overlooked here in the Drew Pickus story is the fact that he was exposed to many different sports at a young age, thanks to his parents Hal and Erin.
We never pushed Drew towards one sport. It was always Drew’s decision as to what sport he played…. Hal Pickus
He didn’t concentrate on just one sport, he played them all. As it turned out, he found his passion in the pole vault. Think about the experiences he may have missed out on if he wasn’t involved in those other sports.
Therein lies the rub. We can argue if specialization of one sport is the better way, or playing three sports and staying active is the better way. What we find out by studying Drew Pickus is that there can be another way. A way where the athlete follows their dreams, and their passion. A way where the athlete is seeking fulfillment in a way that no one saw coming. A way where if that athlete works hard enough, and is passionate enough, success will follow. It may not happen at 8, 9, or 10 years old. It may take until middle school, or even high school, until a real passion emerges for a certain sport.
Even though I have no idea what the end result in pole vaulting will be for me this last time around, I can’t help but feel excitement for what is ahead of me in college because I know that whatever happens, I can make it back…. Drew Pickus
As far as college, Drew has committed to Eastern Michigan University, where he will be studying Environmental Science. If he attacks college with the same passion he does his vaulting, he will absolutely be successful.
So, if you are good at something, does that mean that you were meant to do it? Should kids specialize in one sport, or play as many as you can growing up?
The answer to that questions lies in one word….Passion