Timothy Belin, Campus Carrier asst. sports editor
While balancing academics with participation in two separate varsity sports can be tough at times, Berry’s multi-sport athletes said they are finding positives in the extra involvement.
Playing several sports might be common in high school, but most athletes choose to focus on a single one once they get to college. For sophomore Emily Rapach, however, the opportunity to keep riding and playing volleyball was too good to turn down.
“Basically, all throughout high school I was pretty serious with both sports, and it was always something I wanted to pursue in college, but really in the recruiting process I was more focused on volleyball,” Rapach said. “And then I found Berry, kind of talked to the volleyball coach about the potential of doing both because I knew they had an equestrian program, and she was super open about it, like encouraged me to pursue it, so I met with the equestrian coach, rode a few times for her before I actually got to Berry, and she basically said I could be on the team.”
For other players, like senior Antonio Brown and sophomore Jordan Wilson, who both participate in football and track and field, that decision came later in the recruiting process. Both Brown and Wilson said they had already committed to playing football for Berry when Luke Syverson, the head track and field coach, offered them a chance to participate in that program as well.
Brown, who’s an offensive lineman for football and throws discus and shot put for track and field, said that that decision has helped his performance in both sports, because the two rely on similar skills.
“Both sports require lower body explosion, and it’s actually a very easy transition going from football to track and field,” Brown said. “Some of the movements I use for football are very similar to track and field, and they actually go hand in hand.”
For Wilson, who runs the 200 and 400 meter for track and field and plays cornerback for football, the main skill he uses in both is his speed. But more than just the physical ability, Wilson said that football has given him a competitive edge that he can use when running.
“Upping my level of competitiveness, I’ve learned that in football,” Wilson said. “I learned it very quick, and I would say that translated over to track, so I was able to compete and be a better track runner because I learned to compete harder.”
Rapach also said she sees improvement in more than just her physical abilities. She said the mixture of sports has helped her fitness, especially her core strength, but also emphasized the mental aspect of both disciplines.
“They’re both really mental sports,” Rapach said. “Volleyball, it’s a game of momentum, you really have to be mentally strong; we focus on that a lot. And then with equestrian it’s more of a solo sport, you’re in the ring by yourself, so you really have to be mentally strong, especially if you make a mistake, just moving on really fast from it.”
Off the field, combining a fall and spring sport can be challenging for academic reasons, but Rapach said she knew what she was getting into from her high school experience.
“It’s definitely hard, especially in the spring, we still do weights and open gym for volleyball, but it’s also something that I’ve been used to in high school,” Rapach said. “Especially senior year, I had two free periods in the middle of the day, so I’d go to school, go to the barn, come back, finish my classes, go back to the barn, and then have volleyball practice.”
Wilson said he is thankful for the support he receives at Berry, especially from the Academic Success Center, to help him balance the two, and said that having both sports on his résumé will show potential employers that he has good time management skills. Brown, meanwhile, said that he also learned to prioritize his activities and thinks that it will help display his dedication.
“When it’s all said and done and my career’s done at Berry College, me playing two sports will just be a huge boost to my résumé and to other employers and them seeing that I stuck at it for all four years for both sports,” Brown said.
All three athletes also said they enjoyed the sense of community their teams bring. Wilson said that both his teams feel like families, while Brown said he enjoys the camaraderie that comes with spending so much time together on the practice field and traveling for away trips. As for Rapach, she said that having two teams helped her expand her social circle.
And while Wilson and Brown both said that football remains their favorite sport because they have been playing it for so long, Rapach said it was too close to call.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say one is more of my favorite than another,” Rapach said. “They’re just so different. Volleyball really gets me fired up and lets me be loud and energetic, and equestrian is more of a moment to reflect. It’s a bit quieter, slower paced, so they’re just so different.”
Rapach also said that if she is struggling with either one, she might prefer the other during that tough spell, but she thinks having the opportunity to escape one through the other has kept her passionate about both.
“It’s been a release for me,” Rapach said. “If I’ve had a tough day in volleyball, just being able to go up to the barn and be with the horses has just been a good stress reliever.”