Some athletes still excel in two sports a season

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By Larry Goffinet

Sophie Etienne of Heritage Hills was named to the All-PAC girls soccer team last week.

Three weeks earlier, Etienne, the granddaughter of Tell City-Troy Township superintendent Ron Etienne, also made all-conference in another fall sport, cross country.

She was the individual champion in the Crawford County girls cross country regional and helped the Patriots win team titles in the conference, sectional and regional and qualify for the state meet.

Forest Park senior Casey Van Winkle made All-PAC in boys tennis this fall and won his No. 1 doubles match 6-0, 6-1 as the Rangers beat Tell City.

He also helped the Rangers beat Tell City in football, where he was a running back.

The football Rangers finished with a 4-6 record, remarkable for a first-year varsity team.

Though it is really rare nowadays, these athletes are proof that someone can still play two sports in one season and excel in both.

I know the families of both these athletes (Casey's mom and dad, Gary and Rhonda Van Winkle, used to play for my coed softball team, and Rhonda, who is in the Indiana Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame, also played for several women's teams I coached).

But since neither athlete lives in Perry County, you might have guessed that I am not writing this column merely to congratulate them.

Instead I would like to encourage more Perry County athletes to follow their example - and coaches to offer their cooperation to make it possible - so that Perry County teams have a chance to excel in more sports.

Sportswriters, like all journalists, are supposed to be impartial when covering a sports contest.

But it's always more fun to cover a winner, so I would like to see more teams that I cover on a regular basis have winning seasons.

And the more top athletes a team has, the better its chances are.

Tell City High School's enrollment this year is 486, according to official IHSAA totals. That is only about 51 percent of its peak in the early 1970s - when the school offered fewer sports. Perry Central is even smaller at 379.

Heritage Hills, with an enrollment of 708, is much larger than any Perry County school. And Forest Park, with an enrollment of 458, is nearly as big as Tell City.

So if those schools can have athletes playing two sports at one time, Tell City and Perry Central can also.

Neither school has any written rule against such a practice, but at times it has been discouraged.

To make it really work, one coach cannot withhold playing time from an athlete merely because that athlete missed a practice while competing in another sport for the school.

If an athlete misses practice time to go to a concert or shop for a prom dress (both of which have occurred), he or she deserves to be benched.

But missing a practice to participate in another school sport should be seen in a different light and not cost the athlete any playing time if he is still good enough to earn it.