Cones were lined up all across the tennis courts. Freshman Tyler Pritchett sprinted through the bright orange cones doing split steps inbetween. Back and forth, the varsity boys tennis team sprinted to the nets.
But tennis practice wasn’t all that Pritchett had to do that day. After a long day of tennis, he adds on 5 miles of running for cross country practice. Pritchett is able to particapte in both sports during the fall season because of the dual sport policy. Even though he’s balancing two sports at once, he is still able to be in the top five for both sports.
“This is the first year that the policy started,” athletic director Eric Albright said. “The idea has been around for some time. Many of our league opponents allow dual sporting and some do not.”
Pritchett is the first student to take advantage of dual sporting. Not only is he doing two sports this fall, but he also plans on playing hockey in the winter and possibly track and golf in the spring. Choosing to dual sport was an important decision for him.
“I like both [sports] and just couldn’t pick which one I wanted to do more,” Pritchett said.
Albright said that the biggest problem with dual sporting is the conflict between practice times. Pritchett said that he has not dealt with too many conflicts between cross and tennis practices.
“For practices, I have to go to an hour of tennis and then the rest of cross country,” Pritchett said.
In order for a student to be able to dual sport, there is a long process and many factors that contribute to deciding if the student should be allowed to.
“Each coach, the principal, the athletic director, and obviously parents all have to agree on the plan,” Albright said. “Each individual athlete will be treated differently based on their academic record and the sports that they play. This isn’t for everyone. It won’t fit every sport, every situation.”
Pritchett had no problems with both the cross country coach and tennis coach in allowing him to participate in both sports.
“The coaches are fine with [dual sporting],” Pritchett said.“They both support it pretty well.”
The student has to choose one sport to be their primary and the other to be secondary in the beginning of the season.
“If there is ever any events, the primary sport is going to be the one that takes precedence.” Albright said. “If there is a conflict on Tuesday night, both [sports] have meets, you are going to your primary. That’s set in stone.”
In Pritchett’s case, he chose cross country as his primary. He made that decision because he thinks personally that he is better at it and it is his favorite out of the two.
Even with the conflicts between practice times and meets, there are still many advantages for student athletes to dual sport.
“That student might not have to choose,” Albright said. “You get to play all the things that you really like to do. Teams could benefit from the skill of a particular athlete; We might be able to showcase some talents that we’ve not been able to previously.”
Albright used the example of a player on the soccer team also being the kicker on the football team.
“That kicker could be on the team and might be the best kicker in the school,” Albright said. “Why wouldn’t we want him representing Midland High?”
For Pritchett, the advantages he receives from running cross country and tennis are more personal to him. He also believes that doing both sports at once helps him improve in the other sport. Cross country gives Pritchett better endurance, while the conditioning and sprints that he does at tennis practice make him faster for cross country.
“You get more exercise and you get to meet more new people,” Pritchett said.
Although Pritchett also got to meet new people through dual sporting, he also said that one of his disadvantages was that he no longer had as much time to hangout with friends.
Varsity boys tennis Coach John Telfer was once a student at Midland High and wishes that they had the dual sport policy when he was there.
“I love the dual sport policy,” Telfer said. “I think it is great to have kids participate in sports whenever possible; as each sport helps build character and athleticism in a different way.”
Telfer is a supporter of the policy and is glad that Pritchett is able to be apart of the team even if cross country is his primary sport. Telfer cares more about students being more involved rather than how many practices that he may miss.
“My goal is to help as many kids participate in and enjoy high school tennis as much as possible,” Telfer said. “I would rather have Ty participate in tennis whenever he is able than not have him on the team at all.
As both the athletic director and varsity boys baseball coach, Albright can see the challenges that would arise from a student balancing two sports during the same season.
“I worry about practice time and getting repetitions,” Albright said. “Some of the spring sports can be very challenging. They’re more team oriented.”
Knowing how involved the spring sports are, Pritchett is not sure whether he is going to dual sport again with track and golf. Another factor of Pritchett attemping it again has to do with how hard his classes are.
“I’m not completely sure [about dual sporting in the spring],” Pritchett said. “You have to miss a lot of school.”
Pritchett emphasized school being a factor in dual sporting. He suggests that students should take that into consideration if they are thinking about doing dual sporting.
“Make sure you know that the coaches are okay with [dual sports],” Pritchett said. “Make sure that school comes first.”
Written by Paige Murphy and Annaliese Hohner
As appearing in the September 30, 2016 issue of FOCUS.