Photo by Jason Duchow Photography.
For anyone who has ever participated in extracurricular activities—whether it is football, dance, cheerleading or band—you know that to balance school, social time and practice can be at times overwhelming. But for some, that is what they thrive on.
Senior Robbie Johnson, who plays quarterback for the Bulldogs, has always participated in multiple sports, giving him little time to hang out with friends and relax. But he would not have it any other way.
Basketball has been a game Robbie has played ever since he can remember. His dad played basketball for Boise State and his mom played college volleyball, so sports was something that was always prevalent in his family.
“My dad was a big influence on me when it came to basketball,” said Robbie.
Robbie moved to Sandpoint from Boise in 8th grade. He had played football in the Optimist League in Boise (the equivalent to junior tackle) since the fifth grade. Previously a center, Robbie moved to the quarterback position his freshman year. He also was on the JV basketball team for the Bulldogs beginning his freshman year.
His freshman year Robbie also participated in lacrosse, but switched over to track in the spring. “I do track for the training, but I also enjoy the competitive side,” he said. “And I really don’t like not doing anything.”
With football beginning in May with spring practice, Robbie goes from track to football with little to no break in between. Like many of his football teammates, he also works out in the weight room and conditions all summer long. He also attends open gym for basketball in the summer. When football ends, depending upon how far the team goes into the playoffs, basketball has usually already started.
The seasons not only can overlap, but so can the practices. Fortunately, the support multiple-sport athletes receive from their coaches makes it easier for the young men and women who participate.
“Coaches are definitely aware of the risk (of injury in other sports), but they do not have to worry about us not being in shape,” said Robbie. “They know we are committed.”
Sandpoint football Head Coach George Yarno fully supports and encourages his players to participate in more than just football. “It makes for well-rounded athletes for all sports,” he said.
With a 3.75 GPA, Robbie has also shown his dedication to academics. “You have to work so much more than you realize,” said Robbie, who said he often times eats dinner while doing his homework at the same time. But in the end, it is worth it. He said he has grown a lot over the last year and feels his throwing as well as his basketball shot have improved significantly. “I’m in the best shape of my life.”
He had the opportunity to work with former NFL quarterback Jake Plummer over the summer who gave him some tips that have allowed Robbie to throw with more power. “He taught me a lot about throwing mechanics,” said Robbie, who is grateful for the opportunity.
Multi-sport athletes are not uncommon at Sandpoint High School. In fact, many of the Bulldog football players participate in at least one other sport, something Activities Director Kris Knowles said he and the administration supports. “Our philosophy is to provide opportunities for student athletes to participate in as many SHS activities as they choose. I am fundamentally opposed to sport specialization for the high school athletes and believe that for the health of a student, both physically and emotionally, it’s advantageous for them to play multiple sports during their high school career,” said Knowles. “The majority of our coaches share this philosophy and encourage participation in multiple sports throughout the school year.”
Knowles said there was a time when sport specialization was thought as the only way for an athlete to excel in a high school sport or to gain attention of college coaches. “Currently I am hearing that many, and I would say the overwhelming majority of college coaches I speak to, encourage multi-sport participation in high school,” said Knowles. “Those I spoke with this summer seem to be focused on overuse injuries and burnout issues as the reasons for encouraging high school athletes to play multiple sports. Anyone who claims a students needs to specialize to make it to the next level are missing the current trends in college athletics and beyond. As an example, 88 percent of the 2017 NFL Draft class played multiple sports in high school.”
As Robbie looks forward to this football season, his goal is to win a state championship—something he got a taste of when he was a starter two years ago with the 2015 Bulldog team that finished second in state.
“(The state championship game) was frightening and exciting. I never thought about being at the stage,” said Robbie. “But having gone through that experience, I feel will make me a better leader this year.” And he’s hoping his leadership will take the Bulldogs to a win at the state championship.