Multisport athletes becoming rare in age of specialization

Cody Allgor | Staff Writer

 The three sport varsity athlete has slowly started to become something of the past at Mason High School. However, some Comet athletes are not ready to give up playing the sports they love, even if it means dealing with a jammed packed training schedule and lingering injuries. 

As a junior, Michael Molnar was the starting quarterback for the football team, starting power forward for the basketball team, and is currently the Mason baseball team’s center fielder. Molnar has found success on every team he has been on, despite being spread so thin. Molnar said that his love of sports comes from watching Mason games ever since he was little.

“My dad has always been a football coach, and I remember being really little and going up to football games every Friday night with my dad,” Molnar said. “I would see these big Mason football players, and they were like heroes. We would go to basketball games, football games, baseball games, and I would always want to be like them. And all I could do is just picture myself, someday, doing what they were doing. It’s always been a goal of mine.”

Senior Nolan McCormick was once in a similar position to Molnar, playing basketball, baseball and football until his sophomore year. After giving up basketball at the end of his junior year, McCormick solely competed on the football field as a running back for the Comets. McCormick said football was the sport he wanted to completely focus on when thinking about his future.

Nolan McCormick runs the ball in a game against Oak Hills.

“I gave up basketball and baseball because I decided after my sophomore year football season that football is the sport I wanted to pursue,” McCormick said. “That’s what I wanted to play and that’s the sport that I wanted to give myself a chance to play in college.”

Molnar has had his fair share of injuries while playing these sports, the biggest coming when he tore his UCL – a ligament in the elbow that allows certain motions, such as throwing – and was forced to have Tommy John surgery at the end of his freshman year. Just one year later, Molnar tore a ligament in his thumb within weeks of returning from the torn UCL, and that also required surgery. Molnar said that the injuries did not faze him, but he still wanted to make sure he was healed for the long run.

“I was walking around last year at some point in the spring with a not fully healed elbow and a thumb that was fresh out of surgery,” Molnar said. “But I’ve played through so many injuries that it’s second nature to play through a little bit of pain. At the same time, you want to make sure everything feels right for the long term.”

Even though every sport has its own set of rules and gameplay, they all seem to overlap in the skillset and athletic traits you need to be successful. Molnar said that this overlapping of traits is beneficial to how he performs. 

“Each sport has its own set of skills you need to know and traits you need to have,” Molnar said. “But if I’m playing safety in football, there’s a lot of lateral movement and with basketball, that’s what defense is- sliding, strength and endurance. Hand eye coordination with baseball and catching the ball in football and basketball, it all intertwines and helps me out in the long run.”

During his past two years as the starting running back for the Comets, McCormick put up over 1,600 total yards and 14 touchdowns, giving the Comets a reliable running game. McCormick said that his production ultimately benefited from focusing on football.

Michael Molnar swings the bat in a basketball game, on of the three sports that he plays.

“I felt stronger and faster going into this season,” McCormick said. “I dealt with injuries my junior year, but I still felt stronger playing in those games as well. There would be times sophomore year where I felt weaker and slower than some of the guys that I was going against, so I feel like my performance benefited from no longer playing basketball or baseball.”

McCormick recently decided to further his athletic career at Ohio University, joining the football program as a walk-on running back. McCormick said that even though he is going to be a walk-on, he believes that going down to one sport was ultimately the right decision.

“I believe it’s paid off,” McCormick said. “My goal has always been to play division one football, and even though I am going to be a walk-on, I still reached that goal. In the long run putting my focus on football has paid off.”

Being a three sport athlete means that no matter what sports season it is – fall, winter, or spring – you are constantly representing your school. McCormick said that even though he believes he made the correct decision, he still misses playing sports at all times.

“It’s super cool to be a three sport athlete and be able to represent your school year round,” McCormick said. “A part of me is sad that I wasn’t able to do that. I tried to make the best decision for myself, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss playing basketball and baseball and having the chance to represent my school in the winter and spring.”

For Molnar, dedicating all the time and effort it takes to be successful at three sports is worth it. His passion for each sport overcomes any second thoughts or doubts he has about continuing to play all three. Some athletes though may be overwhelmed by the stress of playing multiple sports. Molnar said that he suggests doing what is best for you.

“I would recommend doing whatever makes you the happiest,” Molnar said. “It can definitely be too much for someone who doesn’t love every part. I do it because I love going to every practice and game. If you’re playing football, basketball, baseball, and you don’t want to wake up four days a week during your summer at five in the morning to go lift and run, you shouldn’t be doing it just to be called a three sport athlete. Only do it if you’re really enjoying it.”

Photo by Caroline Wilkinson