continues to mount that sport specialization can be detrimental to the overall development of high school athletes, several IHSA schools are actively trying to promote multi-sport participation.
“I have always held the belief that playing multiple sports is important for an athlete,” said Prairie Ridge Athletic Director Mark Gilbert. “There are many life lessons to be learned through sport, whether you are a starter or a non-starter.”
When Gilbert became the Athletic Director at Prairie Ridge in Crystal Lake three years ago, he instituted the PLAY 2 campaign to encourage student-athletes to play two sports or more.
“Coaches can be quite protective, so educating them on the campaign was important,” said Gilbert. “I brought in Orthopedic doctors and trainers to speak to parents and coaches about the benefits of playing multiple sports. We then looked at which student-athletes we had playing multiple sports and plastered them around school with our PLAY 2 Logo.”
Prairie Ridge provides sophomores and juniors who participate in at least two sports receive PLAY 2 shirts, while seniors appear in the posters displayed throughout the school.
“We also tie our sports nutrition, hydration, sleep, etc. to our PLAY 2 initiative through a group that we started called the Wolf Way,” said Gilbert. “This group started by having athletes pledge to live the Wolf Way, essentially live a healthy lifestyle to maximize your athletic potential. I am looking to expand the program by offering support to athletes that play multiple sports with academic assistance and study tables.”
PLAY 2 has produced immediate results in the Prairie Ridge hallways, as the number of two-sport sophomore, junior and senior student-athletes rose from 116 in 2013-14 to 172 in 2014-15. Other schools, including Antioch, Barrington and Lakes, have taken notice and have begun to take elements of Prairie Ridge’s PLAY 2 program and instituted them into their schools.
"National studies show that students do better academically when they are actively involved in education-based interscholastic athletic programs," said Barrington Athletic Director Mike Obsuszt. "Coaches want athletes who are competitors. They also want athletes who are mentally tough and can fight through adverse situations. Playing multiple sports helps to build those qualities in student-athletes."
Barrington produced the video below to help encourage multi-sport participation:
Play 2 video from BHS-TV on Vimeo.