|It's difficult to play more than one sport at one of the scholarship levels of the NCAA. But it's still common at Division III, and Alixis Roccia is one of more than a dozen student-athletes at Averett University who get it done in multiple seasons.
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Being a student-athlete for one sport is challenging enough considering the amount of time it takes to do well in the classroom and in the environment of competition. However, handling more than one sport in addition to a full class load is even tougher and requires a lot of drive and concentration to find success.
Averett junior Alixis Roccia is a prime example of a dual sport athlete when she finished basketball this past season in a game at Ferrum on a Saturday and then was right back there three days later to compete for Averett women's lacrosse. One would think that Roccia would want a break from the crazy schedule that comes with being a student-athlete, but she never missed a beat and still found enough time to graduate in three years with a 4.0 grade point average. Roccia will be back in the navy and gold this upcoming year to finish her athletic eligibility while pursuing her master's degree.
There are not many student-athletes in Division I or II who are able to compete in multiple sports because their one sport requires so much of their time that they cannot possibly fit another team's schedule in. The Division III model, though, allows for student-athletes to play multiple sports while keeping in good standing with their studies. In fact, in the 2017-18 school year, Averett had 13 student-athletes play multiple sports. Roccia expressed how being a dual sport student-athlete just made her experience here at Averett that much better.
"Playing two sports definitely made my experience at Averett extraordinary," said Roccia, who had played lacrosse growing up before coming to Averett to play basketball. "If I'm not challenging myself, I feel stagnant. Lacrosse allowed me to push myself past limits I never even thought I would get to. Basketball has allowed me to keep my childhood passion alive as well. The decision was well worth it. I think playing two sports made me a more well-rounded individual."
Motivation has to play a key factor when it comes to being a dual-sport athlete as it takes a lot of effort to keep up with. For junior Rosa Morales, who played women's soccer and lacrosse this past year, she was motivated to play another sport that she loved and was excited to be granted the opportunity to do so.
"I had played lacrosse in high school and loved Coach (Kelly) Ryan's excitement for the new program," Morales said. "She would comment on my athleticism, my leadership in other roles and how my contribution to this brand-new team would be extremely beneficial in the long run. My interest in playing and overall receiving another opportunity to play a game I loved, eventually pushed me to commit to it."
Sophomore Abby Taylor competed with the women's volleyball and lacrosse teams this past year. The Waynesboro, Virginia, native said that she actually liked the busy schedule that came with being a dual sport athlete when asked if it was hard to balance two sports with her schoolwork.
"Not as hard as I thought it was going to be," Taylor said. "Honestly, being in season keeps me on a steady schedule so I feel like athletics keeps me on top of everything."
To play multiple sports at the collegiate level requires a lot of support from head coaches. Freshman Will Merritt competed in wrestling and men's lacrosse this past year and said that both of his head coaches were supportive from the beginning.
"Coach (Tommy) Owen was very supportive of my decision to start playing lacrosse," Merritt said. "He even came out and watched me play a couple of games at home. Coach (Anthony) Mackin had no issue as well and was even encouraging me to go to offseason wrestling workouts before our lacrosse practices started."
Being a dual sport athlete is tough, but what is most common between these four individuals is that they all love playing each of their respective sports and that is what drives them to carry the heavy burden of keeping up with their busy schedules.
By Jeffrey Bentley, Averett Assistant Sports Information Director