Sports

For some, one is plenty

Last of six parts

When topic of conversation turns to athletes who specialize, the names Tippy Burk and Brent Chriswell are usually in the mix.

The reason why is obvious – the two are so athletically gifted that just about every coach at South Kitsap would like a piece of them. Either would make solid football players, just as either could excel playing baseball.

But that’s not going to happen. Both are very content to do what they do best, playing the sport they love.

Burk, a junior who helped lead the Wolves’ basketball team to a sixth-place finish in the Class 4A state tournament this past season, and Chriswell, a senior who will be defending his Class 4A 171-pound state championship in wrestling, both decided early on in life that despite athletic gifts that could apply to many different sports, they would specialize in just one.

For Chriswell, that decision was a no-brainer, considering he was raised in a wrestling family. Burk on the other hand, played and excelled at many sports as a youngster before zeroing in on just basketball.

But both have enjoyed unparalleled success and neither has any regrets of the choices they made.

“No, no … no,” Burk said. “For me, it’s just not that much fun to take the time away from (basketball). To me it’s not worth it to take that much time away.”

Well almost none.

“When I go to a (Seattle) Mariners game and see how little they do and make millions doing it, I think I’d like to do that,” Chriswell joked. “Wrestling is so hard, sometimes I wish I had picked something easier. But it’s my sport. It’s what I love to do.”

Chriswell is not only a state champ, he has a couple of national titles under his belt as well, performing in a number of freestyle tournaments in the off-season. A state title in his senior season would make him the only two-time individual champ in South Kitsap wrestling history.

Burk had a stellar sophomore year as the Wolves’ point guard and is already drawing interest from some of the nation’s top basketball colleges, including Gonzaga. He will try to lead South to a sixth-straight state tournament this winter.

And while that’s all well and good, it’s their athleticism that has other coaches stopping them in the hallways to try and spark their interest in playing other sports.

So far, the two have politely turned down the offers. And for multiple reasons.

“(I’ve been approached) a few times,” Burk said. “I think a lot of the coaches, they kind of know. I think a lot of the coaches are just joking around, really. Other than (football) coach (D.J.) Sigurdson, they’re just joking around because they know basketball is my sport.”

Part of the reason so many high school athletes are sticking to just one sport may be the competition level in sports today. It’s so competitive that it’s difficult for kids to move from sport to sport and be successful, South basketball coach John Callaghan reasoned.

“If you really want to excel, you have to (compete year round),” he said. “And the commitment involved in each sport is so huge. If you want to play at a state level, you have to be committed to it in the off-season, because in the off-season is when you develop individually. When the season comes, everything you do is about the team.”

Burk played football, basketball and baseball for a time but started to narrow it down when he gave up baseball at age 10. Knowing that basketball would always been his sport, he stopped playing football after his eighth grade year, despite being tabbed as one of the county’s best junior high players.

“No matter what, I was going to play basketball year-round,” Burk said. “I couldn’t do both at the same time. I decided that I’d rather play basketball year-round than have football in there for two or three months (taking time away from playing basketball).”

Burk said basketball was always his favorite sport to play, but not his best. At the time he decided to concentrate solely on basketball, he was better at both football and baseball.

Chriswell’s venture into other sports has been similar to Burk’s. He’s athletic enough to have football coaches try to get him on the field, but he doesn’t want to spend the time away from the mat.

In his younger days, Chriswell played football, swam, and was on soccer and hockey teams. But he turned his full attention on wrestling after his eighth grade year as well.

“I felt that if I was going to be the best at any one thing, I needed to focus on one sport,” Chriswell said. “Football, it was fun and all, but I just wasn’t into the team sports that much. I figured with wrestling, it would just be myself. (Playing football) is not my passion. It’s not something I would really enjoy.”

That, both say, is the bottom line in the choices. Yes, getting college scholarships played a role in deciding which sport they would play, but the sheer enjoyment and time spent participating is why they do what they do.

“I put it this way,” Callaghan said, “you have those kids that play three and do it for the fun of it. The guys that do one, they do it because they love it.”

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