Bemidji teen plays three sports at once

As the Star Tribune pointed out in a couple of recent stories, high school sports is big business now.

Kids are being forced to give up multiple sports to concentrate on a single sport all year. They’re sent off to “camps” to be better at their chosen or appointed sport, all the better to make the team.

Parents living out their own failed dreams? Maybe. But who can blame them for investing in their children’s athletic ability if it means not saddling them with a lifetime of debt for a college education?

And yet, like the death of the neighborhood “pick up” games at our parks, the end of high school sports as a playground for “normal” kids is certainly a sad phenomenon.

That’s why we’re brightened with the Minnesota State High School League’s John Millea’s post today celebrating Linaes Whiting of Bemidji, Minn., who plays multiple sports at the same time. So old school.

This fall he’s playing three sports at once.

Soccer is Whiting’s top fall sport when it comes to practice time. His conditioning for cross-country meets came through playing soccer, and he spent time working on kicking field goals and extra points with the football team when he could. He didn’t miss soccer games and on occasion had to frantically rush from one contest to another.

A typical double game day was Aug. 31. The soccer team played a 3:30 game at Hillcrest Lutheran in Fergus Falls and the football season opener was a 7 p.m. home game against Rogers. After the soccer game, Linaes traveled the 130 miles home to Bemidji.

“He showed up and made it back in time to kick our first field goal of the year,” said football coach and activities director Troy Hendricks. “He comes rolling in and does what he’s asked to do.”

When the Bemidji football team played at Brainerd later this fall, Linaes was with the soccer team for a game against Sartell in Bemidji. Once the soccer game ended, he traveled the 98 miles to Brainerd, arriving during the fourth quarter.

“If we can get him at a Thursday practice or at the end of practice a few times a year, we take advantage of it,” Hendricks said. “I always know that he’ll be ready to go on Friday night.”

Last spring, the young man was a member of the state champion relay team.

It’s getting near time to choose a college and he’s thinking of concentrating on basketball or track and cross country once he gets there.

His football coach said it would be frightening to think how good he’d be if he concentrated on just one sport.