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Are club sports the death of 3-sport athletes?

For decades, the Pahrump Valley Trojans have relied on three-sport athletes to set the tone and keep all of their sports programs going. Every sport had them. When you are a small town you depend on them.

But lately, there has been a trend that could make the three-sport athlete here in Pahrump rare.

Pahrump is growing up

The recent growth of club sports from just two teams two six suggests that things are changing in this town.

I am torn between club sports and kids playing in all three sports. It is exciting to see Pahrump grow as a town and meeting all parents’ needs, but at the same time, I love seeing kids play three sports.

Let me tell you this, I will not come out for either side. So I am just going to present two passionate people who believe in what they are saying.

First off, can we have both club sports and kids playing three sports at this school?

Sure, with the enrollment as it is, the two can co-exist and the school can survive with the current amount of athletes they have. In 2011 and 2012, the girls soccer team won two state titles with both, three-sport athletes and club team members on the team.

Is playing only one sport all year good for the kids?

Pahrump Valley High School coach Bob Hopkins doesn’t believe it is.

“They (three-sport athletes) are getting rare here,” Pahrump Valley High School golf and basketball coach Bob Hopkins said. “That frustrates me to no end. Kids should play three sports and enjoy it. But there are coaches who promise the kids that if they play club sports they will get a scholarship. And that is wrong for there are no guarantees.”

He pointed out that when a kid plays just one sport they put all their eggs in one basket.

“I love the sport of basketball,” Hopkins said. “If I coached it all year long or if I played it all year long, I might hate it. Don’t throw all your eggs into one basket. Kids should play as many sports as they can. They get different coaches that way and play with different kids. Also, they use different muscles and are less susceptible to injuries because of that. It’s not my job as a coach to get kids a scholarship. It’s not about getting a college scholarship.”

He used Dominque Maloy as an example. She played three sports at Pahrump Valley High School too and ended up getting a scholarship to Arizona State University and becoming an All-American.

Longtime softball and baseball coach Rich Lauver disagrees with Hopkins. Lauver has coached baseball and softball for over 30 years. He currently has an A-level rated softball team, which is a club team.

The argument for club sports

Lauver said there are no guarantees that if a kid plays club ball that he or she will get a scholarship, but parents have to follow a proven “blueprint” that says that if you concentrate on one sport, and play club, it is more likely colleges will come look at your chid.

“The facts are this, colleges no longer look at high school sports when recruiting high school kids to play college,” he said. “They go to showcase tournaments put on by club sports so they can see as many athletes as they can.”

Lauver believes there is room for club and three-sport athletes on the team. He says the solid teams need three-sport athletes to support the kids wanting to make it to the next level.

“There should be two to three kids on the team who play just one sport and then there are the good athletes you need to balance the team out. These are your three-sport athletes. And finally, to have a solid team you have the two-sport athletes. With that makeup, you are solid.”

Lauver firmly believes kids need club ball if they want to make it to the next level, and he doesn’t believe that it is for everyone.

“Kids should play other sports at a younger age,” Lauver said. “In fact, they should play as many as they can to determine which ones they are good at and they should enjoy that in elementary school. Once they get into eighth grade they need to pick one, two at the max. There is a blueprint for kids who want to play at the next level. It has been proven that kids who want to play at the next level need to focus on the one sport.”

Lauver said he does believe that playing club sports at too early of an age risks the athlete burning out.

As far as injuries, Lauver doesn’t believe that club sports are responsible for injuries.

“Show me the documentation that says kids are getting injured from playing one sport. I have kids that have played 100 softball games straight and no injuries,” he said. “But yes, club players need a break and I do have the kids take one. At least one month off.”

He would like to take more of a break but found that when he did, other coaches in club ball would steal his players away from him.

Lauver also gave me an example of a student that was a two-sport athlete and played club soccer and went to college. His example was Sydney Sladek, who played club soccer and went to the University of Southern California, playing in the national championship last year in college soccer.

There are two sides

The fact that is two sides tells me that things are changing at this school. I really don’t expect people to be convinced either way from reading this commentary. I just want the sports people in town to realize there are two sides in this.

The truth is out there as I always say and each parent will find their truth and what is best for their student-athlete.

The one thing that is certain is that things are changing at Pahrump Valley High School. The school is no longer dependent on three-sport athletes. In fact, the teams are balanced. There is a little bit of both, good or bad, and both sides have to live with that.

Contact sports editor Vern Hee at vhee@pvtimes.com

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