May 5, 2016
April 19, 2016, 4:45 p.m.: With just enough time to spare, Carroll High junior Sara Sweeney signed her scorecard at the Breda Golf Course and headed straight to the clubhouse bathroom. For the rest of the No. 1 golfers at the meet that afternoon, their day was done. For Sweeney, her night was just beginning.
Sweeney went straight from the pin on the ninth hole to the clubhouse, but instead of staying to chat with the other golfers and fans, she was on a mission, and worst yet, she was running just a little late.
April 19, 2016, 5:15 p.m.: Sweeny, now changed out of her golf uniform and wearing a blue sweater and oversized gloves, was ready for her second game of the afternoon. That night the Tiger girls soccer team hosted Riverside. Although she missed the first half, Sweeney entered the game in the second half as the teams goalie and stopped every shot that was aimed at her.
That night she helped the Tigers win 4-0 over Riverside with a flawless effort.
Her golf meet had been successful as well, as she finished as the runner-up medalist.
It was the first time that an already busy spring schedule showed how busy juggling two varsity sports in the same season can be. Sweeney’s been ready for the challenge though.
It may be busy, but it’s a task that she has been able handle so far this year.
“That was my first one where I had both,” Sweeney said about April 19. “I was nervous when I first got to golf because I was wondering if I’d be thinking and focusing on the soccer game. I also had a big test that day, so that was also on my mind. The important thing for me to do is just focus on what I need to do in the moment, not talk about soccer, or school.”
Sweeney isn’t the first athlete to play multiple sports in the same season, but her case is a different one than most.
“We have several players that are involved in other sports like track,” said Carroll girls soccer coach Glenn Babb. “Sara was the first one that really played two sports like this.”
Her path to playing two sports in the same season came from her wanting to stay active through the spring sports season.
Although her main spring sport, golf, does keep her active, she wanted to add a little more motion.
“I have a friend who is always talking about soccer, and I have other friends who were always talking about soccer and how fun it was,” Sweeney said. “I’d always see pictures of it and stuff. So I thought that if I were to do something active then that would benefit me a lot. So, I decided to go out for the team.”
There was a problem with going out for soccer though. Sweeney was already a very accomplished golfer. As a sophomore, she was able to represent CHS at the state golf meet as an individual. Coming into the season there was no doubt that Sweeney was primed to be the No. 1 golfer for the Tiger girls.
After some debate, she made her decision and decided to try to do both sports.
“The very first day of practice I sat down with coach Bissen, and he talked about how some of the soccer games and golf meets would conflict,” Sweeney remembers. “We found out that there were nine meets or tournaments that conflicted. So, we tried to figure out how everything would work, with practice and everything else. I was really stressing about it, but the two coaches were able to get together and figure out a schedule that would allow me to practice for both teams.”
Although both sports run in the same season, there was luck on Sweeney’s side. Golf practice ran after school until 5 p.m. Soccer practice, didn’t start until 4:30 p.m.
It made for an easy compromise between girls head golf coach Randy Bissen and Babb.
“Each day I practice golf from 3:45-5 p.m.,” Sweeney said. “Soccer practice runs from 4:30-6 p.m., so I only miss a half hour of both practices.”
Although a compromise was made between the two coaches there were still some hesitations about having the high schooler do both sports this spring.
“At first when she said that she wanted to do soccer too, I wondered if she’d have time to do both,” Bissen said. “Since she was a golfer that went to state last year as an individual, I didn’t want her to focus too much on another sport, because I want her to return to the state tournament. I had my doubts, but she comes to the meets ready to go, she’s at practice ready to listen and work.”
For coach Babb it came as a surprise that Sweeney was interested in the team.
“I was surprised, but happy to have her come out for the team,” Babb said. “She brought a lot to the team having played volleyball, basketball and golf. So I knew that she had the mentality and work ethic that is needed to play soccer. She also fits right into the team. It was nice to have her come in, because the volleyball experience meant that she had skills needed to be a good goalie, like diving for balls and things like that.”
NEWCOMER TO SOCCER
Before this season Sweeney had only focused on one sport when the spring season rolled around, and that was golf.
“I got into golf when I was a freshman,” Sweeney said. “I wasn’t really expecting to try it originally, but I liked it, and here I am now.”
Before her freshman season Sweeney said that she didn’t even have her own set of golf clubs. She had been to the golf course several times, tagging along with her dad, but she had never really thought about golfing. As soon as she started golfing though, success followed.
“She has been my top golfer for the last two seasons,” Bissen said. “She just doesn’t bring her golfing skills, but as a leader she has been great. Her work ethic is outstanding. I know that on the weekends she puts in extra time by going out golfing with her dad. Her knowledge of the game and everything is just great. She worked really hard and wants to get better. Even when she has a good round she is thinking of ways that she could have been better.”
Sweeney said that she came into the season wanting to accomplish several goals, and so far each one of those goals has been met. At every nine hole meet she has either been a medalist or runner-up medalist. Her last meet at the Carroll Country Club was perhaps one of her best rounds of golf ever.
The work ethic and fierceness that she brings to golf has transferred well into soccer, mostly due to some of the other sports that she participates in.
“I related soccer a little to volleyball at the beginning, because you have to dive all over the place, and not be afraid to get in the ground,” Sweeney said. “At first, mentally, I thought soccer was a lot like volleyball, but I can catch the ball, so I was able to play basketball into how I played goalie. I just go out and do what I do.”
On the soccer field Sweeney has been able to rack up a save percentage over .500.
At first when the deal was struck between the two coaches, Sweeney was originally just going to play at home meets and home games when both sports had an event on the same night. However as the golf season hit its stride, and Sweeney continued to have success on the links, she changed her plan.
“The doubling, when they are both playing at home, I’m able to do both. That is kind of stressful, but it works out.,” Sweeney said. “Since I’ve been improving and doing so well in golf this season, and I’ve met my goals, and after discussing it with my dad, we decided that it might be better if I focus on golf. Babb has been great about everything.”
The spring has been hectic for Sweeney outside of sports too, as she continues to add accomplishments in choir competitions and academic success as well.
It is also a season that has taught Sweeeney a few lessons.
“Organization has improved for me this season, as well as getting to things on time,” Sweeney said. “I’ve always been an on-time person, I’m not usually late to practice, but everything with timing has been improved. Its important for me to keep my mental train of thought on track when transitioning from one sport to another. It’s really helped me focus.”
Her time management skills have impressed even her coaches, who aren’t so sure they would be able to do what she’s done this spring.
“It’s one thing to be a multi-sport athlete with volleyball, basketball and golf, but to actually do it in the same season, I don’t know, to be honest, if I’d been able to do that,” Bissen said. “For her to manage both, and excelling at that, a big hats off to her.”
Babb thinks if he had to he might have been able to do two sports in one season.
“Where I am from they had soccer and football run at the same time. I had some friends that did both sports,” Babb said. “I’d like to think that I’d be able to do both sports, but I’d have to have the passion and commitment for both, and Sara’s been great by bringing that to both teams.”