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Two-sport athletes strive for balance

April 19, 2007

The majority of athletes who dual-compete couple track with another sport; often, the second sport is football.

It takes a very dedicated and disciplined individual to compete in two sports and maintain their grades in the classroom, said Head Football Coach John O’ Grady, who currently has more than a handful of players competing in track and field.

“The great majority of players who compete in two sports are very disciplined, otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it in the first place,” O’Grady said.

Though there are some conflicts of interest between coaches when the seasons overlap, O’Grady said he feels it is a positive situation for the teams and the athlete.

“We have to improve our overall team speed,” O’Grady said. “Having our players compete in track and field really helps that.”

O’Grady said he feels it is also very beneficial because it keeps the athletes in competitive situations year-round.

Head Track and Field Coach Martha Brennan said the biggest problem she sees when a student-athlete competes in two sports is being able to get the coaching staffs to support the athletes in both sports and to compromise with the other coaches.

This goes back to the conflict of interest issue. For example, when early spring practice for football rolls around, the players who compete in track cannot be there and that can create problems for both the coaches and the players.

“Sometimes I feel I should be doing football workouts when I’m at track, otherwise I will be letting my football teammates down,” football and track and field athlete Jamie Bisch said. “But I know track is a great way for me to prepare for football.”

O’Grady doesn’t allow his players who also compete in track to participate in early spring football practice.

“You have to let them totally devote themselves during their different seasons,” O’Grady said. “It cannot be both ways because it just doesn’t work.”

Besides the one pitfall of having seasons overlap, Brennan said she feels it is very beneficial to the athletes to compete in two sports because they can stay fit year-round.

“Track is a unique sport because it complements all other sports,” Brennan said. “Athletes who compete in track will be better in other sports because our sport involves all motor skills from running, sprinting, throwing and jumping.”

Bisch said he feels one of the greatest benefits of competing in two sports is getting to see how other coaches train because it gives him a good variety of workouts.
“I also like it because it is very demanding and keeps me busy,” Bisch said. “I like challenges, so it is a pretty good fit.”

Aside from the many athletes who combine track with another sport, there are other athletes who compete dually with a different combination of sports.
Mindy Rudiger has taken on the challenge of competing in both softball and tennis.

Like most two-sport athletes, Rudiger said she feels the greatest difficulty arises when she is not able to work with the team during the non-traditional season.

“For example, in the fall, I miss the fall practices for softball because I am playing tennis,” Rudiger said.

Rudiger said the heavy workload that comes with being a two-sport student-athlete has never been an issue for her.

“In high school I was a three-sport athlete, so I’m used to having practice or games year-round.” Rudiger said.

Rudiger is now a sophomore and has competed in both sports since coming to UWRF as a freshman. She said she likes that she didn’t have to choose one sport when leaving high school and gives a lot of credit to her coaches for making it all possible.

“Part of being able to be a two-sport athlete is having understanding, supportive coaches,” Rudiger said. “I have been fortunate because Lee [Lueck] and Faye [Perkins] allow me to play two sports and have supported my decision.”

Rudiger is head women’s tennis coach Lueck’s third two-sport athlete.

“I’ve been lucky that all three have had excellent academic credentials and able to pull that element out,” Lueck said.

But like other coaches, Lueck said he has to deal with competing schedules.

“The biggest problem with tennis and softball arises in the spring when we lose that player for tennis practices and tennis meets,” Lueck said.

Lueck said he believes the team will have a shot at making nationals this season, which will take place just as the softball season is getting under way.

“I’ll need Mindy for that meet,” Lueck said. “[But] will Faye or Mindy be willing to compromise?”