No off season

A decrease in sports participation numbers due to the opening of Liberty in 2017 has led to a rise in multi-sport athletes at West High.


Amy Liao

Pictured are West High athletes Noah DeSaulniers ’22, Marcus Morgan ’21, Matayia Tellis ’21 and James Pinter ’20.

By Caroline Chandler and Hanah Kitamoto

It was the golden era of West High athletics.

From 2010 to 2014, ‘Dynasty High’ won 19 state championships across 10 different sports, including seven in the 2011-2012 season alone. In 2015, the Iowa City Community School District voted to open Liberty High School, forever changing the landscape of one of the state’s most accomplished athletic programs.

After one high school turned into two, the impact on West was not entirely positive.

“We have fewer students in the building, which means that we have fewer students to draw from,” said West High athletic director Craig Huegel.

Declined students numbers in the classroom also affected numbers in the athletic fields. Now with less athletes on every team, the remaining athletes have to perform an increasing amount of tasks within the team. With the football team needing athletes for both offense and defense, many players find themselves doing both, where they used to specialize in one.

On the other hand, having less enrollments can open doors for some athletes.

“If there are fewer enrollments, there’s also more opportunities to participate on the varsity team,” said head swim coach Byron Butler. Along with being able to participate on a varsity team, the athletes will get more coaching from the head coaches, who could provide them with more feedback.

Sean Brown
West High competed in the state swimming meet on February 10, with swimmers from 36 different schools competing.

Head boys track and field coach Travis Craig has noticed a difference between athletes who participate in multiple sports and those who choose to specialize.

“You see very little drop off from season to season, year to year, since they are involved in multi-directional movements throughout the entire year,” Craig said.

Craig encourages athletes to pursue multiple sports to be more well rounded.

“A kid is like a salad. Just one ingredient is plenty bland. However, as you add each ingredient, each enhances the entire salad without being entirely blended or losing its individual value,” Craig said.

According to Stack, a sports and athlete lifestyle magazine and website, multi-sport athletes have a lower chance of becoming injured because they train with a variety of muscles while practicing different sports. This prevents the athlete from overusing one specific part of their muscles, which could cause an injury.

Since the athlete is exposed to many different team environments, they are able to become familiar with the team aspect.

Owen Aanestad
Mason Applegate ’22 pressures the Dubuque Senior quarterback during the team’s game against Dubuque Senior at Trojan Field on Sept. 20.

“Playing multiple sports has always given me an opportunity to get better throughout the whole year,” said Mason Applegate ’22, a football, wrestling and track athlete. “It has taught me discipline, how to work hard, and what it’s like to be part of a team.”

Matayia Tellis ’21 started playing basketball around first or second grade and picked up track starting in the sixth grade. “I started playing multiple sports because it’s super fun, and I love competing with people; with playing multiple sports you have multiple competitions,” Tellis said.

Kara Wagenknecht
Matayia Tellis ’21 sprints down the track during the JV 100 meter hurdle race on Tuesday, March 26.

One benefit to playing multiple sports is that athletes are able to expand their skills as an all-around athlete. “When I played volleyball it helped with my hops in basketball and jumping over the hurdles. Now that I’m in cross country, it helps with my conditioning,” Tellis said.

In addition to these benefits, Huegel also encourages more students to be multi-sport athletes. “Many of our best athletes that have come through Iowa City West are multi-sport athletes.” Huegel said. “They’re kids who maybe basketball’s their favorite sport but they also run track and they’re good at both. But you can still have a lot of success and help your teammates in another sport.”

This story was originally published on West Side Story on October 1, 2019.