Dual-sport athletes thrive at Esko
Marisa Shady's schedule Thursday was even longer than normal. The Esko junior is a dual-sport athlete --that's two sports in one season, not per year --a phenomenon that's becoming routine at the school. "I'm gone from 5:45 in the morning until 6...
Marisa Shady's schedule Thursday was even longer than normal.
The Esko junior is a dual-sport athlete --that's two sports in one season, not per year --a phenomenon that's becoming routine at the school.
"I'm gone from 5:45 in the morning until 6:30 at night, then I come home and eat and do my homework, and then get to bed because I have to do it again the next morning," said Shady, who played for Esko-Carlton in the Section 7A soccer championship game Thursday night against Chisago Lakes. "Everyone here is definitely busy, but you make the adjustments and learn how to manage your time."
Shady, her younger sister Erika (cross country, soccer), Kailee Kiminski (cross country, soccer), Kallyn Knutson (cross country, volleyball), Hunter Leon (soccer, football) and Max Reinertsen (baseball, track and field) are all members of the two-sport club.
"It's a philosophical thing for our department," athletic director Chad Stoskopf said. "We want them to participate in two sports, if that's what they want to do."
While not unique to Esko, it does seem the school with just 300-some students produces more quality dual-sport athletes than any other in the Northland. Shady is the defending Class A cross country champion, while Leon and Reinertsen earned 2010 All-State honors in soccer and football, respectively.
"One thing that Esko does that's good is it develops the athlete, rather than just the football player," said football coach Bill Hudspith, a teacher at Cloquet High School. "When you do that, a kid like Reinertsen can triple jump and go be a catcher on the baseball team. And (graduate Michelle) Maunu can kick and be a soccer player.
"If a kid wants to, why would you hold them back?"
Senior Caitlin Lilly, who transferred from Cloquet as a sophomore, plays soccer, hockey and runs track for the Eskomos. At this time of year, her post-school schedule consists of soccer practice at 4 p.m., a quick run home to eat and do homework, followed by hockey captain's practice at 9.
She says the two-sport method works because coaches encourage it, an aspect that isn't universal in Northeastern Minnesota.
"Our coaches are really open-minded," she said. "For example, if we're conditioning for soccer and Marisa already has run five miles in the morning, she doesn't have to do the running."
Reinertsen, whose baseball coach, Ben Haugen, played baseball and ran track in Iowa, agrees.
"The coaches have seen it work with other kids so they have become more accepting of the dual-sport athletes," he said.
But it's still teenagers, who generally are more inclined to play video games or hang out with friends than manage their time wisely, who must put in the time and dedication to make it work.
"We don't have the luxury here of picking from 200 athletes for a varsity soccer team," Marisa Shady said. "Everyone here is so diverse in their athletic abilities, and everyone steps up to the plate when and where they need to."
Athletics haven't exactly hurt their academics, either. Reinertsen, for example, sports a 3.95 grade-point average and never has received below an A-minus, while participating in four sports, band, student council and leading a fundraising effort for St. Jude's Children's Hospital that has netted $41,000 the past two years.
"A lot of them are in band or other co-curriculum activities," Stoskopf said. "Max, for example, is going all the time. I know his spring schedule was crazy with all the different things he's involved in. To manage his time at that age, to the extent that he does, he has to be organized and likely will do well in life."
Hudspith takes the approach that cross-training prevents burnout. There comes a certain time, he says, when even elite athletes have to take a break and focus on something else.
"The mind says, 'I am done.' So no matter what you force feed them, they get tired of it," he said. "Keep them active and enthused to be competitive. But even Olympic athletes don't throw all year -- they play basketball, soccer, baseball, swimming, golf, anything physical -- so when the time comes, they are in shape and are sharp.
"Esko does a very good job of allowing kids to experience everything."