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3-sport athlete shuns specialization for Olympians

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East's Rhett Myers throws the discus during the Hoosier Hills Conference Meet in Jeffersonville, Indiana Thursday May 15, 2014. (Photo by Joe Harpring)
East's Rhett Myers throws the discus during the Hoosier Hills Conference Meet in Jeffersonville, Indiana Thursday May 15, 2014. (Photo by Joe Harpring)

In an era of specialization, most athletes at bigger schools begin to pick one sport early in their high school careers.

Rhett Myers isn’t having any of that talk.

As a sophomore, Myers helped lead Columbus East to the Class 4A state football title as a starting tight end. Then, he dressed and played a little for the varsity basketball team in the winter. In the spring, he was the runner-up in the discus in the Hoosier Hills Conference track and field meet.

Now, as he heads into his junior year, Myers plans to stick with all three sports the rest of his high school career.

“I like doing all three sports,” Myers said. “It’s more fun for me. It keeps me busy. It’s good to have a change every once in a while rather than have the same thing every day.”

That’s a philosophy in which his three coaches all agree. Football coach Bob Gaddis, who is also East’s athletics director, likes to see multiple-sport athletes.

“We encourage our kids to do multiple sports, but it’s rare for somebody to do three,” Gaddis said. “All of our coaches do a great job of working together, and that helps kids manage their time.”

To help make it easier for kids to play multiple sports, Gaddis instituted a program last year in which football and basketball players and kids in some other sports lift and condition together in the summer. So from 7 to 9 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday this summer, Myers was in the weight room working out with his teammates.

From there, the football players went out to the field for fundamental work from 9 to 10 a.m. Myers returned to school from 6 to 8 p.m. those Tuesday and Thursday evenings for basketball open gyms.

In addition, the East football team went to the Bishop Dullaghan Camp in Indianapolis for three days in June, and the basketball team played in various tournaments in June. On his off days, Myers practiced throwing the shot and discus at Central or Northside middle schools.

During moratorium week the first week of July, where high school coaches cannot have contact with players, Myers attended the Throw 1 Deep Camp for shot and discus throwers in Atlanta.

“Arguably, he could be one of the best athletes in the city of Columbus because everything he does he does well,” East basketball coach Brent Chitty said. “He could play a lot of basketball for us. Track and field, he’s one of the best in our conference; and football, he already has a state championship ring.

“His attitude and his work ethic is second to none,” he said. “He’s a guy that will be in the trenches with you. He’s a hard worker, has a great family and represents Columbus and our school great. I’d take 100 of him.”

The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Myers played mostly junior varsity basketball for the Olympians as a sophomore, but his role figures to increase this winter.

“He’s in our top six, seven guys,” Chitty said. “He does a lot of good things for us. He rebounds. He has a great shooting touch. He’s setting screens, and that’s a lot of screen. He moves very well for a guy that size.”

The end of the track season left a bitter taste in Myers’ mouth. After finishing second in the discus in the HHC with a personal-best throw of 152 feet, 1 inch, he threw only 142-6 in the sectional and finished ninth. His throw from the HHC a week earlier would have won the sectional.

“I felt like I should have got out (of sectional),” Myers said. “I had the potential. It was a disappointment.”

“Rhett is a great kid, and he’s a hard worker,” East boys track coach David Miller said. “He’s excelled at all three sports, and that’s because he puts in so much work and dedicates himself to being the best possible athlete.”

Miller, who also is the Olympians’ offensive line coach in football, sees the benefits of Myers playing three sports.

“With the things he’s doing in the other sports and in the weight room with the hip explosion, him doing football and basketball probably helps him on the track,” Miller said. “Being a three-sport athlete I don’t think hurts kids. They practice a lot of different movements that you wouldn’t get if you weren’t playing different sports.”

“I know that basketball, I have to be able to catch the ball a little bit, so it helps with my speed and footwork,” Myers said. “Then, you go from that to track, and that takes a lot of footwork, as well. It keeps you in shape with the cross-training.”

Not only is Myers a three-sport athlete, he’s a stellar student. He carries a 4.03 GPA.

“To balance that time during the summer, he has to learn to balance his time year-round,” Gaddis said. “Rhett has to balance his time all day. He’s a guy that puts in at least a 10-hour day being a student-athlete, and then he goes home and studies.”

Myers said he hasn’t felt any pressure from coaches to specialize on one sport.

“They’ve all been pretty good about letting me do whatever I want,” Myers said.

Football is Myers’ favorite sport and the one he figures he’ll play in college. He has attended one-day football camps at Cincinnati, Northwestern and Valparaiso.

Myers could end up being the third Division I athlete in his family. His father, Dan, threw shot and discus at Kansas State. His sister, Faith, last year’s The Republic Athlete of the Year for volleyball, is beginning her freshman year as a setter at Memphis.

After shuffling among three sports for most of the summer, Rhett Myers is excited to be able to focus on one for the next few months. Football practice begins Monday.

“I’m definitely ready for football to start,” Myers said. “I’m ready to get back at it.”

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