In a time when single sports specialization is becoming more and more common among youth athletes, Dallastown junior Drake Pew has become the outlier, playing four different sports for the Wildcats.
Drake Pew doesn't need much time to become a typical nap-loving, food-devouring teenager.
Even when he has a little more than an hour between the end of school and a 5:30 p.m. lacrosse practice, he finds that either of those two activities can quickly occupy his rare free time. So, he does everything in his power to keep that to a minimum.
"When we have late practices like these (at 5:30 p.m), I just go home and sleep and eat, and I don't want to do that every day," he said.
For a teen who gets bored easily, Pew does one heck of a job of staying active. As the season's change, so too does Pew's uniform. During the fall he dons the Wildcats' soccer kit, which he substitutes for football pads on Friday nights. Those turn into a wrestling singlet and headgear come winter time. By the spring, he's back in a helmet and shoulder pads, but with a lacrosse stick in his hands.
In a time when single-sports specialization is more common among youth athletes, Pew is an outlier. He doesn't buy into the whole "play one sport and become dominant in it" theory. For him, every sport benefits the others.
But he doesn't just dabble in two sports, like a lot of high school kids, or play one in the fall, winter and spring. Pew is a rare breed, the ultimate multi-sport athlete. His calling is four sports, a feat seldom seen at any level, much less in high school, when athletes tend to focus more on honing their craft in one or, at most, two sports, hoping that one will lead them to a college scholarship.
There is no offseason for Pew. It's just one season to the next.
Fall: If there is ever a season that Pew looks forward to the most, fall is it.
Since the age of 4, he's been a soccer player. It's his best sport and the one he's most passionate about. On the boys' team at Dallastown, he was voted the underclassmen captain for the past season and will be a captain again as a senior next fall.
Then, this past fall, he got a taste of the Friday night lights of high school football when he became the team's placekicker for the first time.
"I love the football atmosphere," Pew said. "I think it's the hypest thing, to be honest. But, I love playing soccer. I've been playing it since I was 4 years old. It's my go-to sport and probably what I'll go to college for."
On the pitch, he's about as versatile a player as a coach could wish for, playing in the midfield so he can contribute on both the offensive and defensive ends of the field. But, if need be, he can also be called upon to fill in at another key position.
"He's a central player and primarily a defensive player in the center," Wildcats' boys' soccer coach Matt Zimmerman said. "Sometimes he likes to roam a little too far forward, but he's also an outstanding goalkeeper. If, heaven forbid, we would be in a bind, he would put the gloves back on and step in the box if we needed him.”
However, because Pew decided to take up football in the fall, it creates the biggest set of conflicts for him. With the two sports going on at the same time, he has to choose between which he'll attend for practice more often. That usually turns out to be soccer, since he holds a bigger role as a midfielder, compared to being just a kicker for the football team.
"I communicate with (football) coach (Kevin) Myers and what he wants to have happen," Zimmerman said. "It's a nice thing for what we try to do ... he just needs reps for kicking a football, and for us, it's a little bit more tactical, and he's a bright enough boy and he's been around the block enough that he has a pretty good head on his shoulders to know what he has to do for us."
That doesn't mean Pew can disregard football practices all together. It's still essential for him to attend practices whenever he can, especially during the summer when he said he needs to get in sync with the long-snapper and holder for timing purposes. Myers also thinks it's necessary for him to learn how to tackle properly, in the off chance he finds himself in that position. Myers said he also needs to work on his kicking technique.
For now, however, Myers is pleased with what he saw out of Pew after his first season. Having a kicker from the soccer team isn't a new thing for the football team. Mac Curran also pulled double duty at Dallastown a couple years back. That made Myers more comfortable with having a soccer player kicking for his team. It can give his team a slight advantage over opponents, who may struggle to find a player capable of being a consistent kicker.
"It's very beneficial," Myers said. "...The big thing is, they have that talent, but they're not out there the rest of the game, so they're not getting leg tired. .... He's out there on fresh legs, has time to practice some on the sidelines, and I tell you what, for the kids that have done that, they're sometimes a different breed where they don't let the pressure get to them. They're not thinking about all the other stuff going on. They're just thinking, 'Let's go kick,' and typically it works out pretty well.”
When the football season ends, which this year carried into the middle part of November for Dallastown because of the District 3-AAAA playoffs, that is when Pew has the longest stretch of down time between sports. He'll get about two weeks off before wrestling begins, which allows him to focus on cutting weight and preparing for, perhaps, the most grueling sport there is.
Winter: If soccer is Pew's burning passion, then wrestling is the one sport that's always been in his blood.
His grandfather was a wrestler, which is where Pew thinks he inherited his love for the sport. Quite frankly, you need to have a desire for the sport, because, like Pew's year-round schedule, there is no break during wrestling season. The constant grind, which includes the perpetual monitoring of your weight, leads to days of little to no eating, which makes it unappealing to many. But, that's part of the sacrifice that Pew routinely makes for the satisfaction of being victorious on match day.
"In terms of what I like about wrestling," Pew said, "I guess, besides cutting weight and not eating two days before matches and getting beat up at practice, it's worth it when you get your hand raised in the end."
When you watch Pew on the mat, don't expect to see a conventional wrestler. His soccer and kicking abilities help make him such a successful, yet unorthodox, wrestler.
He doesn't have a broad, stocky upper body, but he's active with his feet, which causes all sorts of problems for his foes. In fact, he narrowly missed out on being a state qualifier this past season, falling one win short at districts.
"He has good balance," Wildcats' wrestling coach Rob Jansen said. "He's got a good sense of his body. He moves well and is just an all-around athletic kid."
There's that word again — athletic.
If there was ever a way to describe Pew, it's as an athlete.
When he plays a sport, he doesn't go halfway. He's all-in.
So, why would lacrosse, a sport he never played until this spring, be any different?
Spring: Unfortunately, for Pew, the task of being a four-sport athlete is a bit easier than being a four-sport varsity letterman.
When he decided to pick up a lacrosse stick for the first time this year, making the varsity team was going to be a long shot. Dallastown possesses a team full of returners from last year and has just one senior starter.
So, he was relegated to the junior varsity team, where he was transformed from a short-pole into a long-pole defender after his first scrimmage.
"He's more aggressive and athletic," first-year Wildcats boys' lacrosse coach Joe Slessinger said. "I always like starting kids on defense so they can learn their way up, and if you understand defense, then you understand how to beat a defense."
Despite the switch coming immediately after he scored a goal up front, Pew doesn't mind it. In fact, he relishes the opportunity to hit kids and be physical, something that translates from wrestling. It's something he can't do much in soccer and never got the chance to do as a kicker in football.
This is the first time that Pew has played a spring sport at Dallastown. It ultimately came down to either tennis or lacrosse. He was going to play one and not give himself the chance to be, for a lack of a better term, lazy for a couple months.
He's caught onto lacrosse quickly. His desire to get better every day has made him one of the captains of the JV team, despite being a novice at the sport.
While Pew missed out on being a four-sport varsity letterman this year, that's ultimately his goal as a senior. By then, he'll have about nine months to continue honing his craft with a lacrosse stick in the hopes of cracking the varsity roster for his final high school season.
Summer: Once lacrosse ends in late May or early June, depending on how far the Wildcats go in the postseason, Pew will get his longest break from high school athletics. Fall practices don't begin again until early August. So aside from soccer and football workouts, he's a free man.
Except, of course, for his club soccer team, FC York. Pew is part of that team for most of the year, attending practices when he can during school and playing in games on the weekend.
Sports are a never-ending obsession for the junior.
"I just love the team atmosphere and being a part of the teams," he said. "I love being at Dallastown, having fun, scoring goals, making plays and having the student sections there. It's just a big part of high school and I love it."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com