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In recent years, there seems to be a trend away from three-sport athletes.
It’s something St. Bede athletic director and girls basketball coach Tom McGunigal has noticed and doesn’t like.
“I think there’s become a general shift toward sports specialization,” McGunnigal said. “Personally, as a coach and as an athletic director, I don’t think that’s very healthy for your body physically or mentally.”
In an effort to curb the trend at the Academy, McGunnigal established the Fr. Kevin Gorman Award to encourage student-athletes to participate in three sports.
The award will be given to any athlete who competes in three sports all four years.
“We want to try to give a little bit of an incentive to kids by rewarding them for staying active, staying competitive and representing us on these different levels,” McGunnigal said.
McGunnigal believes playing multiple sports can benefit athletes in several ways while also improving a school’s overall athletic program.
Physically, McGunnigal said it’s important for athletes to compete in different sports.
“Kids who are 14-17 years old, their bodies are still developing muscles,” McGunnigal said. “I think it’s important that you maximize that muscle development at this time in their life as opposed to one sport that may limit the overall growth of a student-athlete from a physical standpoint.”
The veteran girls basketball coach also believes students can benefit from interacting with different coaches and athletes.
“Being introduced to different coaches, working with different kids on different teams and working through different situations is healthy mentally for kids,” McGunnigal said. “I feel we have a very strong coaching staff and there are a lot of benefits for our student-athletes to gain by participating underneath the different coaches we have.”
McGunnigal also believes the Academy’s overall athletic program could improve with more three-sport athletes.
“The benefit to more kids playing more sports is the deeper your teams are — or looking at wrestling and track, the more events you’re able to fill — the better able you are to compete, and hopefully you’re looking at more team success with more kids participating,” McGunnigal said.
McGunnigal hopes the award makes a statement that the athletic department and the school’s coaching staff encourages multiple-sport participation.
In fact, the award came out of one of McGunnigal’s “coaching summits,” which are open forums McGunnigal has with the St. Bede coaching staff.
McGunnigal first thought of doing something to encourage three-sport athletes when he took over as AD. At one of the summits, boys basketball coach Mike Kilmartin, who previously coached and served as AD at Mendota, brought up an award given at Mendota.
Eventually, McGunnigal settled on the Fr. Kevin Gorman Award, which is named after St. Bede’s long-time athletic director.
“He was the AD for 27 years from 1958-84, basically as St. Bede transitioned from an all-boys school to a co-ed school and when we made the entrance into the Illinois High School Association,” McGunnigal said. “He was the guy doing it all. He was a long-standing figure at St. Bede athletic events. That kind of service, doing what he did — driving the bus, washing, handing out and collecting equipment, attending all the games, all the yeoman’s work he had to do back at that time — I just thought it was a very fitting tribute.”
With the new award, McGunnigal hopes to see a new trend of more and more recipients each year.
Kevin Chlum is the NewsTribune Sports Editor. He can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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