The Michigan High School Athletic Association currently has a task force to promote multiple-sport participation. With that in mind, they hold up the three-sport athlete as the guideline for others to follow.
Three sports? What about six sports?
Zach Scholly of Climax-Scotts plays six varsity sports throughout the year. Saturday morning cross country meets after Friday night football games. Late-night basketball contests followed by early morning wrestling meets. Throw in a pole vault and some golf clubs, and you get the idea. This kid has a full sports schedule.
“To me, he is exactly what the MHSAA wants to see,” Climax-Scotts athletic director/head football coach Kevin Langs said. “He is a multiple-sport athlete, a 3.4 grade-point, he will graduate with 30-some college credits as a dual-enrollee. He is the poster kid for what they want to promote in high school sports.”
Scholly is a two-way starter on the No. 3-ranked Climax-Scotts football team, helping the Panthers to an undefeated record so far. But this fall season he is also busy running on the Climax-Scotts cross country team.
In the winter, Scholly will be in his second season as a member of the varsity basketball team, while also getting into the circle at 189 pounds for the Climax-Scotts wrestling team.
Spring will mean throwing the shot and discus as well as being a pole vaulter for the Panther track squad and teeing it up for the Climax-Scotts golf team.
“People ask if I’m crazy and I say, ‘maybe, a little bit,'” Scholly said. “When I first started thinking about doing this, my mom and my coaches told me I was crazy, in fact. But now that I’ve done it a couple years, they trust me and they know I can handle it and get everything I need to get done.”
As a freshman and sophomore, Scholly wasn’t quite as aggressive in how many sports he competed in – cutting all the way back to five. His first two years in high school he played football, ran track, played basketball and wrestled and played baseball. As a junior, he went to six sports, dropped baseball and added golf and cross country. If he continues as planned, he will have played 22 seasons of athletics during his four years of high school at Climax-Scotts.
“I think the most we’ve had before has been five in one year,” Langs said. “My son Jordan did basketball, wrestling, track, baseball and football. We had Connor Edwards who did football, cross country, wrestling, baseball and track.But this is the first time we’ve had six and really, he’s pushing seven, if he wants to do baseball again.
“He does it because he enjoys the challenge and the process. He’s not a great cross country guy, but he goes out there and runs for the team. He’s a better wrestler than a basketball player. And he’s a better track man than he is at golf or baseball. But he can do it all because he’s a good athlete.”
So does the football coach ever complain to the athletic director about having to share time? Well, at a small school like Climax-Scotts, since the athletic director and the football coach are the same person, the answer is no. Langs says there is a mutual effort by the athletic department to help the school’s student-athletes get as much out of the high school experience as they can. In this case, allowing someone like Scholly to play two sports per season.
“Last year, something like that came up,” Langs said. “He had some bad shoes for cross country and he got injured, or did something to his foot because his shoes were bad, and he had to miss a football game because of it. That happens. You know, the football coach doesn’t want to lose him, the wrestling coach doesn’t want to lose him, the track coach doesn’t want him to miss time, but those are the chances you take. I think it’s worth it for the experience he’s getting.
“It’s about being at a small school and he wants to do all of them, so we work together as a coaching staff and make it happen,” Langs added. “The biggest thing is the coaches have to work it out together. It can get tough sometimes, especially when you have something like Friday basketball games followed by Saturday wrestling matches. But we have a coaching staff that understands the bigger picture in life and they do nice job of making it work.”
Scholly plays tight end and defensive end on the football team and has started on both sides of the ball for two years. Climax-Scotts doesn’t have a full cross country team, but the few members on the team run at meets as individuals under the name of the school with his best time this season being 24:19.
The wide-shouldered 5-foot-11 athlete is a post player for the Climax-Scotts basketball team, coming off the bench last year for the league championship squad. In the winter, he is also an above-.500 wrestler for the co-op program that Climax-Scotts shares with Martin, winning a team district title last year.
His best event in the spring is the pole vault and he has gone 10-foot-6 in that and he shoots 51 on the golf squad.
“I do all of them because I love playing all of them,” Scholly said. “I think about going to one sport per season some times, because it can get hard at times. But, I love every sport I play, so I’m going to keep at it.”
Asked if the games on back-to-back days, such as football and cross country or basketball and wrestling running into each other, can wear him out, he says it’s not that. It’s the practices that are tough.
“I can do this because most of the time the games don’t coincide with each other, so there isn’t a conflict. But the practices do sometimes. But the coaches know if I’m at one practice then I might not be at the other, but I will make it up some time during the week,” Scholly said. “The late-night games and early-morning tournaments, those I can handle. It’s the days when I may have to practice until 10 at night. Hard practices right after each other, those can wear on me sometimes.
“But if I know something is wearing on me, or my mom or my coaches see something is interfering with school or my homework or see me getting worn down, they will tell me to take a step back. They are good about that. But most of the time, it hasn’t been a problem.”
Recently, the MHSAA did come out with a report that noted the growing concerns to young people who specialize too early and narrowly on a single sport as the group works to promote the benefits of multiple-sport participation.
“I know the realities are that at a larger school you don’t get that. Kids feel like, take a sport like volleyball, that they have to play year-round, play for the school, play club, if they want to make the top part of their varsity team,” Langs said. “Here at a small school like ours, the experience is a little bit different. You can play multiple sports and enjoy those other aspects of participating in different sports. We know we aren’t at the level of those Class A schools, but we still feel like the kids are competing at a high level in each of the sports and, at the same time, they get to have a quality experience in different sports and that’s worth it.”
For Scholly, that would be six sports, six different experiences.
“What a great way to learn life from different angles when you get to play several sports.That’s a great thing,” Langs said.
Contact Bill Broderick (269) 966-0678 or email@example.com . Follow him on Twitter @billbroderick