In this age of specialization, Royce Clemens is an "old-school" breed — with a different sport for each different season.
While other standouts in the York-Adams area have focused on competing year-around in just one sport, Clemens has favored variety instead.
Of the three sports that Clemens plays — soccer, basketball and volleyball — the Central York senior has shown a lot of promise in all three. But it's volleyball — in which he was a PIAA Class AAA all-star a year ago as an outside hitter — that the Panther standout will continue to play in college next year. That's when he will transition to libero for a very successful Penn State men's volleyball team.
"Just his natural athletic ability, I think, is just superior to the gifts that most of us have been given," Central boys' volleyball coach Brad Livingston said. "He's really a talented athlete and that just transfers over to all the sports that he plays. And I'm sure that if there were other sports that he would have gotten involved in that he'd be equally as successful in those."
While there have been others in the York area that have competed in three sports, what makes Clemens' trifecta so unique is the fact that both he and the teams that he's played on have enjoyed success.
"I have a lot of pride in it," Clemens said. "I put in a lot of work during the offseasons for each sport and I've achieved what I did because of hard work and my teammates."
The 6-foot, 2-inch standout was a Division I all-star in boys' soccer, helping the Panthers win the York-Adams League title. Central and Clemens continued on from there, finishing third in the District 3 tournament to earn a berth into the PIAA Class AAA tournament for the first time in school history.
Clemens followed that up by leading a turnaround of the Central boys' basketball team, which captured its first York-Adams League title in 40 years. The team's second-leading scorer at 10.7 points a game, Clemens earned all-star recognition, helping the Panthers earn a berth into the PIAA Class AAAA tournament with a school-record 24 victories.
Now the senior will very likely make history, becoming the first Central York athlete to lead his team to the state tournament in the same school year in all three sports seasons.
That accomplishment, provided that his boys' volleyball team makes it to states again this spring, will actually mark the fourth season in row that Clemens has played with his team at states. The Panthers' volleyball squad earned a berth into the PIAA playoffs last spring.
"Wow, I didn't know that," Clemens said of his possible hat trick. "When I was growing up, I knew I was a great athlete but I wasn't so sure that I could just focus on one sport or not. So I talked with my mom and dad about that and we came to the conclusion that it would just be better to play all three sports."
The variety has actually been of benefit to Clemens in several regards. For one, when his basketball team lost in the first-round at states, the fact that volleyball practice was just around the corner gave him an outlet to alleviate some frustration.
"It was a rough loss," Clemens said of his team's 54-47 loss to end the season. "We didn't play as well as we should and we could have won that game, so (volleyball practice) sort of took my mind off of it."
But perhaps just as important is the ability to build overall strength that wouldn't be possible if he only focused on just one sport.
"I agree that (playing different sports) is good for Royce," Livingston said. "A lot of times some of the research that I read does say that playing different sports is a good thing for a good athlete because all of those different sports use different muscles and require different skills. So he's able to balance the body out instead of repetitively doing the same thing over and over."
While Clemens will finally head down the route as a one-sport athlete next year up at State College, he's focusing on some of his unfinished work at Central. For one, he's hoping to finally earn a gold medal after leading his team to a York-Adams League Tournament volleyball championship. But more importantly, Clemens is hoping to wrap up his career in a fitting fashion — capturing a PIAA Class AAA title on the court at Rec Hall in State College come June.
"Hopefully there's a lot of good things to come this upcoming volleyball season," he said.
Notes: Central and Northeastern figure to be at the head of the class heading into this York-Adams League campaign. The Bobcats, who return a solid core from a club that won the PIAA Class AA title a year ago, have won four of the last five league titles.
The Panthers, too, return a good bit of experience as well, with Clemens and setter Dylan Hose leading the way. Clemens and Livingston sounded excited about some of the team's other weapons — Jason Gardner, Jeremiah Dadeboe, Landon Shorts and Alex Klunk.
"We're a quick team," Clemens said. "Dylan does a good job of moving the ball around so other teams won't be able to just focus on one person, which is good. If they try to double-block one way, the ball is going to go the other way."
Central got off to a fast start to the 2014 season on Saturday, winning the North Allegheny Tournament, beating the host team in the finals, 25-17. The Central junior varsity team finished second to North Allegheny, 25-23.
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.