Twice as Hard, Twice as Rewarding
Andrew Zivic features a pair of two-sport athletes at LMU.
Nov. 13, 2008
LOS ANGELES, Calif. -
Nov. 6, 2008
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - By Andrew Zivic, LMU Sports Information Intern
Student-athletes are met with a difficult task when they enter college: they must find a way to balance playing a sport with taking care of their classes and homework. Now that sports in college are basically a year-round commitment, playing two sports seems like a nearly impossible undertaking. However, that is just what two girls, junior Anne Scott and freshman Casey Flacks, are attempting to do this year.
Scott and Flacks are currently in swimming season and they will also play for the LMU water polo team in the spring. What gives both them and their coaches confidence that doubling up is possible is that they are not the first athletes to play both sports at LMU.
When water polo Head Coach John Loughran first arrived at LMU, he also coached the swim team. Since swim numbers were low, he had his water polo players swim as well. That changed, though, when Bonnie Adair was brought in to be the swimming Head Coach. The two teams are now more separate, but athletes are welcome to do both if they are willing to.
There have been four athletes, prior to Scott and Flacks, who played both sports during the year. The latest of those was Alex Wike, who graduated in 2008. Wike came to LMU to play water polo and then joined the swim team for her last two seasons.
"Coach [Loughran] would always time us during practices and I realized that my times were good enough to help out the swim team so I decided to give it a shot," Wike said.
Wike became one of the team's best sprinters quickly as she was the Lions' top swimmer in the 50 freestyle last year and second on the team in the 100 free. Becoming a swimmer also helped her with water polo, "I became faster and was able to counter better."
The improvement was evident, as she scored 22 goals in her senior, doubling her previous season high of 11. Even more amazing is that despite the strain of playing two sports, Wike's grades improved during her junior and senior years.
She said that much of the credit for that goes to the Adair and Loughran who work well with each other to make sure the two-sport athletes don't get burnt out.
Adair said, "We communicate with each other to make sure we are doing what is best for the athlete. If we see that they are worn down, we know that sometimes they need to skip a practice to recover."
Scott and Flacks are the latest to attempt both sports with Adair and Loughran. Scott transferred in after two years at American River Community College where she was highly decorated, both as a swimmer and a water polo player. She said she probably would not have become a Lion if she didn't have the chance to do both. She has adjusted to the Division 1 level quickly thanks to both head coaches, "For me it hasn't seemed that difficult because Bonnie and coach Loughran work it out so that I'm not over-drained."
Flacks is coming in as a freshman who also did both in high school. When she visited LMU as a high schooler, it was for water polo and she really enjoyed being around the team. She didn't make the decision to swim until a few weeks before she arrived at school after she talked with Adair. One of the main positives for those who have done both, especially for a freshman like Flacks, is that the athletes have two support systems.
Flacks said, "It helps a lot having all the girls to talk to. They are all really nice and have shown me around and if I have any questions, I have a bunch of girls to pick from."
Having both support systems is helpful, especially as the teams' schedules become more difficult. Since swimming is more individual, the athletes can be more flexible with that schedule, whereas with water polo they need to practice more to get a feel for their teammates. Scott and Flacks usually practice every day with water polo and practice about half the time with swimming. They also lift weights with the water polo team.
The most difficult time of the season is in February when the swimming season is winding down in anticipation of PCSC Championships and the water polo season is just beginning. It's a juggling act between getting in shape for water polo and not wearing out for swimming championships.
Wike said that the reward for learning how to balance both is that it enabled her to become much better with time management, as seen by her improving both in the pool and in the classroom.
For the coaches, allowing the girls to do both helps with recruiting. LMU is the rare school where a woman can do both water polo and swimming. "We're one of only two programs in California where athletes can do both," Adair said. "And since both the programs are highly successful, it helps us in recruiting against our competitors like Pepperdine and San Diego."
As Scott said, that's why she decided to come to LMU, and Adair said that it's helping with future recruits as well.
Those who do both, like Scott and Flacks, are able to be part of two winning programs that support them in and out of the pool.