Sport specialization taking its toll at STHS |

Sport specialization taking its toll at STHS

In the past decade I’ve seen the number of three-sport athletes sharply decline at South Tahoe High School.

For a school with an enrollment that annually hovers around the 1,400 mark, it seems almost essential that the Vikings’ elite athletes play more than one sport, so the school can remain competitive with the larger schools in Carson City, Sparks and Reno.

Ten years from now they’ll lament that they didn’t try other sports. Every time I hook a tee shot – which is often – I regret that I didn’t try out for my school’s golf team, especially after seeing the plush courses that the Whittell and STHS teams play on every day. It’s really sad because high school is a time for experimentation. But unlike the school’s course requirements, athletics are a personal choice. Why not sample them? Your best sport might be the one you haven’t tried.

Not to say that that there aren’t a few exceptional athletes competing in the rare triple at STHS.

No one does it better than Tim Sprinkles, who quarterbacked the football team, was a starting forward for the Division II basketball champions and earned all-league status for a last-place baseball team.

Boys and girls soccer, volleyball, boys basketball and football are being graced with a bulk of the school’s top athletes. Naturally, these are the teams that are winning.

Track and field, girls basketball, softball and baseball could definitely use more student athletes – especially the school’s premier performers.

“I don’t profess to stealing players from other sports, but I also don’t like seeing kids with the opportunity to succeed in a sport that they’re currently not in, wasting or spending time trying to succeed in only one sport,” said Viking track and field coach Rick Brown. “Three-sport athletes are on the decline because so much has been stressed by certain coaches that specialization is what it’s going to take to make them successful. It takes more than exceptional athletes at a school of our size to make it to a major college program on an athletic scholarship.”

Think of some of the possibilities.

What if Northern Nevada League volleyball MVP Adrian Hankoff would have played basketball during her four years at the school? Obviously, wins wouldn’t have been so scare for coach Tim Jaureguito. But Hankoff’s commitment to volleyball has paid off in a scholarship to Washington State. However, the senior will never know how good she could have become on the basketball court.

How times during the track and field season did you find yourself thinking what John Giannoni could have done in the sprints?

Running alongside zone 100-meter champion Jake Hurwitz, the Vikings could have made other teams settle for third place.

“It would have been heaven,” said Viking coach Rick Brown. “I really think Giannoni would have been the missing link to giving us a real legitimate shot at winning divisionals and quite possibly zone, because I think there is so much he can do as athlete. I really think he could be a mirror image of Jake and we could dominate 1-2 in the sprints.”

Vikings fans caught a glimpse of Giannoni’s blazing speed last fall while he returned kickoffs for the Vikings. The junior broke one for six points, and many other returns he was one step away from a quick six.

“Looking at his ability on the basketball floor, obviously the 100 and 200 would be naturals for him, but looking at the springs he has in his legs, he could be a long jumper and probably a high jumper as well,” Brown said.

Giannoni’s first love is basketball, a sport that he hopes to play at the next level. He admirably spends off-season trying to improve his play, eliminating any chance of embracing a third sport.

But that devotion won’t keep Brown and Hurwitz from trying to convince the talented athlete to turn out for track next spring.

“I’ve been talking to him all year about it,” Hurwitz said.

Talk about your team players. If Hurwitz is successful, he might fall a notch from his Northern Nevada 100-meter perch.

“We’ve never really raced except from what we’ve done on the football field,” Hurwitz said. “It’s pretty even. He gets off the line pretty quick and I start pretty slow. It’s a close race.”

Brown can only hope that Giannoni can satisfy his own athletic worth and the curiosity of others next spring.

“It’s funny. At the beginning of the season you don’t know how many people came up to me and asked about Giannoni, wondering if he was out for track. The kids asked him, and I did everything but bribe him to come out for track,” Brown said.

The fifth-year Viking track coach has a lot of nights to dream between now and next season, though.

“I would love to see him in a flat-out footrace with Hurwitz. Certainly it’s one of those dreams I hope becomes a reality,” Brown said.

And then all Brown would have to do is find a way for Sprinkles to become a four-sport athlete.

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