Multi-sport athletes finding success on WPIAL lacrosse teams
Despite excelling in hockey and lacrosse while attending Quaker Valley, senior All-WPIAL attackman Jimmy Perkins will hang up his skates next year at Lake Erie College in favor of lacrosse.
There are plenty more kids like Perkins across the country, who must choose one sport over others to pursue in college and beyond.
It's because of this that parents and educators have pushed athletes to focus their talent on one sport to maximize their chances at finding success after high school.
But this encouraged specialization could be more of a limitation than anything else.
“I think it's a huge disservice to these kids,” Quaker Valley coach Bill Marcotte said.
“You get a mindset that you're going to be a Division I athlete, and you'll go and get a full ride, and all you have to do is go to certain camps. They fill the kids' heads with big dreams, which you don't want to dash, but at the same time you have to be realistic about it, as far as what are you using sports for.”
In fact, for lacrosse players specifically, playing multiple sports could help an athlete's chances at advancing to the collegiate level.
“When I was recruiting, everyone wanted multisport athletes,” said Mt. Lebanon coach Mike Ermer, who spent a combined 11 years coaching at St. Vincent College and Hartwick College. “I think there are a certain number of crossover skills from other sports.”
Both Marcotte and Ermer recognized lacrosse as a combination of the physicality and footwork of football, field vision of soccer, defensive principles of basketball and hand-eye skills of hockey.
Although Latrobe coach David Leksell admitted to the occasional frustration of seeing a crossover football player try to put his head down and run through a defense, coaches have only benefited from having mult-sport athletes on the lacrosse field by and large.
In fact, some of the best players in the WPIAL have found success in other sports as well.
Mt. Lebanon midfielder Brian Ward served as a wildcat quarterback for the Blue Devils this year and has verbally committed to play lacrosse at Yale.
Pine-Richland junior Scott Wilden is a crossover football player as well who is committed to Hofstra for lacrosse.
Jackson O'Neill was the goalie for Sewickley Academy's PIAA champion soccer team and has translated those skills between the pipes in lacrosse.
Like many others, Perkins played baseball and football as a youth before starting hockey and lacrosse in seventh grade.
His hockey success is well documented. He led the Quakers to their third straight PIHL Penguins Cup championship this season and led Class A in scoring with 43 goals.
In lacrosse, however, Perkins was named the Division II player of the year last season as he finished with 90 goals and 42 assists.
Although he was a dime a dozen years ago as a multi-sport athlete, he could be in danger of becoming an oddity if trends continue.
“I've seen kids give up other sports that they love to play lacrosse, for example, because it's growing quickly in college,” he said. “I don't necessarily agree with that, because a lot of college coaches like to see multi-sport athletes. It gives them a reason to think that you'll have room to grow into your sport in college.”
Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.