Jim Brown, Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson are just a few of the greatest athletes of all time. What’s the one thing they have in common?
They were all two-sport athletes.
It’s rare to find an athlete who competes in multiple sports past the high school level. At MTSU there’s one athlete in particular who shares the same commonality with the names above. Brent Stockstill is the starting quarterback for the Blue Raider football team and a pitcher for the Blue Raider baseball team.
“I started playing multiple sports around the age of four or five,” Stockstill said. “I think soccer was the first one. It was soccer, gymnastics, baseball and football, and that’s how I think all kids should be nowadays.”
I think it’s going away from [kids playing multiple sports],” he continued. “I think that everybody should play every sport as long as they can.”
University of California, Los Angeles, recently conducted a study comparing its athletes to students who played sports in high school but did not receive a scholarship to play in college. The study found its athletes began specializing in one sport no earlier than 15.4 years of age. The students who had not received a college scholarship began specializing in one sport before the age of 14.
“I think one of the toughest things nowadays is the Amateur Athletic Union and the travel ball teams. I think you get some tough coaches,” Stockstill said about early specialization in a single sport among kids. “I know in the school systems, often times one coach doesn’t want you to do both because they are being selfish over their kids.”
Parents sometimes pressure children into specializing in one particular sport, but the UCLA study disproves the theory.
“It was just because I love sports. I think that each sport helps the other one because you’re always staying in shape, you’re always competing, you’re learning how to win and you’re learning how to compete,” Stockstill said about why he has continued to play more than one sport. “And I think it’s a love for the game that makes you want to play as many sports as you can.”
The amount of two-sport athletes significantly drops from the high school level to the college ranks, with each level having its own set of challenges.
“I think at the high school level it is a lot easier because the sports aren’t so much year-round. Once football season was over you got a little time off before baseball season,” Stockstill said. “But in college I think it’s more from a leadership and a team [standpoint], not so much a physical standpoint. You got to have the trust of your guys. But the most difficult thing is keeping your body ready for each individual sport.”
Parents often tend to squash their kids’ desire to play more than one sport in hopes that the dedication will earn them a scholarship.
“As parents and as coaches, they should be willing to let their kids play it all because I think it’s proven that the more sports kids play, the better it is,” Stockstill said, adding that being able to compete at the collegiate level in two sports takes unique talent, unique ability and an uncanny sense of time management.
Stockstill has all of these characteristics and then some, and that is why he remains one of the few athletes preserving the lost art form.