SHERIDAN — Time off? No thank you. A break? What’s that? Only one skill set? Why stop there?
Inactivity doesn’t define many student-athletes in Wyoming. Most high school athletes wouldn’t fully understand what that word entails.
They have very little practical experience in being inactive.
“I think players playing multiple sports is huge, especially in the Sheridan County area,” Sheridan’s Blayne Baker said. “There’s just not a ton of kids in our high school, and it’s a big part of what we do here.”
Big Horn High School doesn’t have a ton of kids, either. For instance, head boys basketball coach Ryan Allen finds it much easier to point out the players at one of his practices that don’t play football than to name the ones that participate in both sports.
Baker experiences similar difficulty trying to identify which one of his fellow basketball starters doesn’t play alongside him on the gridiron — four of Sheridan’s prospective starting five in basketball play football, as well.
Baker is one of many athletes in the area that competes in multiple sports across three seasons. For three years, Baker has played three sports. He competes for the Broncs football team in the fall, laces it up for the basketball squad in the winter and, until this upcoming spring, closed his athletic calendar each year by competing on the track team.
“Sometimes it’s pretty rough,” Baker said.
Baker — who recently committed to continue his football career as an offensive lineman at the University of Wyoming — has had unprecedented success in his high school football career. He helped pave the way for the Broncs to win three straight state titles. And while that’s extremely celebratory, it cuts down quite a bit on the buffer in between football and basketball.
In fact, it eliminates it all together.
“We were in open gym the Monday after we won the state championship — on Saturday,” Baker said. “It’s just a commitment to both sports.”
A commitment to both sports is easier said than done, especially considering football and basketball differ in more ways than one. An average football play lasts six or seven seconds followed by the teams picking themselves up off the turf, huddling in some instances and lining up for pre-snap instructions from the sideline before cracking the pads for another six or seven seconds.
“They’re short-burst sprints in football,” Big Horn’s Kade Eisele said. “But in basketball, it’s just non-stop sprinting.”
“Basketball has a lot more cardio,” Baker said with a laugh.
Eisele competes as a running back, linebacker and kickoff/punt return specialist for the Rams. He admits while basketball encompasses more back and forth up and down the floor, football takes more dedication off the field.
A football player logs more weight-room time and more film study, and every player must know their respective playbook cover to cover.
Eisele and Baker mirror one another in the fact that they both play football in the fall and basketball in the winter. However, in the spring and summer, Eisele transitions his well-rounded talents to the baseball diamond — until this upcoming spring where he will drop baseball for track to improve his speed for football.
All the sports, while different, go hand in hand. At least that’s how these student-athletes see it. Football conditioning helps build a larger frame, which is beneficial in basketball. Basketball improves one’s cardio, which can help in any activity.
That’s been the case for Eisele since as long as he can remember.
Eisele grew up with two older siblings, and he spent most of his childhood around his older brother and sister who also participated in more than one sport.
That multi-sport mentality and way of life has so deeply engrained itself in Eisele that not even an injury can stop him from playing both. Eisele recently hurt his hip in a state semifinal football game at Cokeville but played through the ailment during the final week leading up to the state title game. Eisele had a golden opportunity to take some time off following the state championship game against Pine Bluffs but elected not to.
That’s not in Eisele’s DNA. It wouldn’t have sat well in his mind.
Even while nursing his hip, Eisele does what he can at basketball practice to better his craft.
“All these sports fill up my calendar pretty well,” Eisele said. “I definitely wouldn’t have it any other way. If my family and I wouldn’t have gone on vacation to Arizona this past summer, I probably would have started thinking about football right after baseball.”
The summer presents an opportunity, if the athlete prefers, to take some time and let the competitive juices remain still for a few weeks.
But that wouldn’t fit their style.
Alli Puuri plays volleyball, basketball and soccer for the Lady Broncs. In her one week away from the floor in between volleyball and basketball, she utilized the time to hang out with family and focus on her academics.
Oh and watch “a lot” of Netflix.
Purri needed to not only catch up on some her favorite Netflix shows, but also make some serious headway considering not much time exists to kick back and watch Netflix when school lets out for the summer.
“May is for basketball. June and July is soccer. Late July and August is volleyball,” Puuri said. “It was nice to have each month be one sport instead of going crazy with all three of them.”
Those words define multi-sport athletes. They define many of the athletes within Sheridan County. Whether it’s football or volleyball, basketball or track, soccer or baseball, the kids stay busy.
Breaks are nonexistent. Voids of time, if any, aren’t utilized to just sit around and collect dust, but rather they’re used to take advantage of other areas.
“Just do whatever, whenever you can to get better for all your sports,” Baker said. “That’s going to help you in anything you do even in life.”