Amy Sanchez: 2 sport athlete limited to 1 sport
Carson High School senior Amy Sanchez vaguely remembers hearing either her dad Lou or one of her softball coaches talk about a friend who once played two varsity sports during one season
“He used to go play baseball, run to the track, throw on his spikes, run a race and then go back to the field,” Sanchez said.
So when Sanchez, who excels in track and softball, was faced with the difficult decision of which sport to play during spring seasons, Amy and Lou thought they could avoid the entire dilemma by having Amy play two varsity sports in one season. If it was possible for Jackie Robinson to come out and win the long jump between doubleheaders while playing baseball for UCLA, then it certainly seemed possible for Amy to run over to the track and win the 100-meter dash between Senator softball games.
There was no doubt that both track coach Todd Ackerman and softball coach John Sullivan would welcome Sanchez to their respective teams, even if only on a part-time basis. Sanchez set the Senators’ 100-meter sprint record in 1998 while competing in track during her sophomore year, and she had batted .417 while stealing 42 bases in 43 attempts during her junior year on the softball team in 1999.
“If there’s some way to go about doing both, I think you should be able to,” Sanchez said. “I’d try to do both.”
But there will not be any multi-sport heroics for Sanchez this spring. Rule No. 2070 of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association prohibits an athlete from playing on two athletic teams during one season.
Which means one of Carson’s best multi-sport athletes will never be given the chance to show off her versatility.
“I think it’s kinda crummy,” said Sanchez on the NIAA rule. “A lot of other people are able to play football and then basketball and baseball. You can be a cheerleader and play any sport. They’re able to do it.”
In California, it’s legal for an athlete to play two sports at once. Athletic participation in two sports during the same season in California is widespread; for example, it’s common for cross country and soccer coaches to share athletes during the fall.
“We do it all the time,” said Colin Davidson, cross country coach at Maria Carrillo High School in Santa Rosa, Calif. “I would say one third of my team has a clearance to play both sports. I even had a football player run in a few meets.”
Lou, an assistant coach for the Senator softball team, said he realized at the conclusion of Amy’s sophomore season that the conflict between track and softball would be a problem for Amy throughout her high school career. He spoke with principal Glen Adair about the possibility of Amy playing two sports. Adair correctly told him that it would violate NIAA rules.
Lou then informally looked into fighting the rules in a legal manner. But after looking into the cost and time involved, Lou decided not to pursue a rule change.
“It would have been a long battle, at least one or two years, and by the time a decision was reached, it would have been real expensive,” said Lou, who now – like Amy once wanted to do – will run back and forth between the softball field and track this spring.
Jerry Hughes, the executive director of the NIAA, gave a straightforward answer on why the rule was passed in Nevada.
“The bottom line is that playing two sports at once is too difficult,” Hughes said.
Ackerman said he agreed that the NIAA rule was a good one.
“One sport at a time,” Ackerman said. “There would be so much pull on the athletes and questions like: Where do I go? Do I go to this meet or go to this game? Is this meet important or is that game important? Who will I practice with? It would be hard on the athlete.”
In this era of driven kids and overzealous parents, I believe the NIAA’s rules regarding sports participation were made in good faith and had the student-athlete’s best interest in mind. There’s no doubt Amy Sanchez would experience a lot of stress, both physical and mental, to run track and play softball at the same time. (Especially when she’s running through airports to make the state softball playoffs in Las Vegas and the state track meet in Reno on May 20.)
But while the NIAA limits athletic participation, it doesn’t limit other activities which are just as time consuming and can cause just as much stress. While two sports at once aren’t allowed, a sport and another activity – whether it be cheerleading, band, debate, or drama – is acceptable, even admired.
Why should Amy Sanchez be punished just because her second “activity” is another athletic activity?
The NIAA should stop putting the brakes on student-athletes and let the kids and their parents decide, as they do in other states, how much they can handle at one time.
It’s too late for Amy Sanchez to get the chance to play both of the sports in which she excels. But there will be another Amy Sanchez someday, and perhaps with some foresight, the NIAA rules can get altered so that a young athlete can actually pursue their dreams in their best sports.
“I think it’d be great for people, in the years to come, to be able to play two sports,” Sanchez concluded.
Erick Studenicka is a sports writer for the Nevada Appeal.