The multisport athlete is a rare breed these days. In fact, in his September column, our own editor in chief, Dennis Van Milligen, proclaimed the multisport athlete was dead altogether.

"This was back when your best athletes played multiple sports — an era that appears to be ending, as sport specialization dominates the modern high school scene," he wrote.

It was a column that touched a nerve with our audience, soliciting more shares via social media than almost any other story in our history. Everyone from ESPN's Stephania Bell to the folks at Dr. James Andrews' clinic weighed in on the column.

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"For many high school parents and athletes today, it is no longer as much about love of the game as it is a business," Van Milligen wrote. "Parents are 'investing' outrageous amounts of money into their children's athletic development, because the fear is that they will not reach the level they need to without specialization, a notion constantly disproved."

But some coaches and athletic directors aren't ready to attend the funeral just yet. We came across this letter written by Larry Chavez, the athletic coordinator at Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Chavez cites specific examples of how participating in several sports has helped student-athletes in his school. He has implemented an incentive program to entice students to avoid sport specialization. Originally published in the New Mexico Athletic Directors Association newsletter, we have republished his letter in its entirety here:

V Sue Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho New Mexico is now in its 6th year of existence. We began our first 5 years with tremendous success in athletics. This was due in part to the 1st class facilities that we have at Cleveland High School, great coaching staff and a group of multi-sport athletes that were shared from sport to sport.

The coaching staff at Cleveland High School knows that I am a big supporter of the multi-sport athlete. I really feel the benefits are great, such as keeping the students active in school based sports in which grades and behavior are always being monitored by a coach, the cross training from sport to sport will make a better well rounded athlete and lastly your overall athletic program will benefit from the sharing of the more talented athletes.

Success in the girls programs at Cleveland High School has been across the board with multi-sport athletes such as Sara Hattis in Volleyball, Basketball and Track( Currently Volleyball- University of Texas), Cassie House in Volleyball, Swimming and Track (Currently Volleyball- UNM), Julissa Hunt and Elicia Gallegos in Soccer and Track (Both Running collegiately one at Steadman College in Atlanta and the other the Academy of Arts in San Francisco), these are just a few examples of the multi-sport athletes we have had at Cleveland High School and those programs successes because of the sharing of athletes.

The boy’s side has been just as successful with the multi-sport athletes and the sharing of athletes. The football program has 167 currently on its roster and the Boys Track team had a team high of 189 this past spring. This has a lot to do with sharing of athletes.

But, in the last year or two I started to crunch some numbers when I was figuring out team/program GPA’s, as Annette Castillo my Administrative Assistant, and I do at the end of every grading period. Some numbers began to jump out at me, the number of multi- sport athletes on the girls side began to drop.

The Girls Multi-Sport participation was at 54 for the 2013-14 school year, while the boys total was still very good with a high of 57 at the freshmen level and a total of 151 boys grades 9 thru 12 competing in two or more sports.

I have begun a multi-sport athlete program at a cost of about $3000 to $4000, money well spent, that will hopefully excite some students to stay active and not put all their eggs in one basket. I did speak to some athletes at the end of the 2013-14 school year to let them know about the program I was thinking of instituting and if that would of interest to them. I was very happy to get positive feedback from them.

What the program consists of, as the school year is nearing an end I begin to contact coaches so a list of multi-sport athletes can be compiled and then confirmed. The following items can be earned at Cleveland High School:

Freshman year - White A-4 Shirt
Sophomore Year - Electric Blue A-4 Shirt
Junior Year - Multi-Sport patch for their letterman jacket
Senior Year - CHS wrist watch

The 2014 Seniors did receive their watches at the May Senior Celebration night, to kick off this program. The Senior parents and seniors really liked the watches that were given that evening.

This school year I have meet with each grade level class to inform them of this program. Already I have heard some coaches walk into my office informing me of the students coming to them to say they want a watch, I want to get that shirt or that patch.

I am hoping this program works to keep our students active and keep the fight against sports specialization that we are all fighting.

What say you, Athletic Business readers? Is Chavez on to something? Is this what it's going to take to keep student-athletes playing multiple sports? Let us know in the comments section.


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