October 29 marked the end of the season for Mount Allison’s women’s soccer team. But while most of her teammates unlaced their boots, second-year midfielder Kate Ollerhead was sliding into her basketball shoes.
From Sackville, Ollerhead committed to playing soccer at Mt. A coming into her first year. A multi-sport athlete throughout her life, Ollerhead thought the days of running between teams were behind her. “I had never thought about playing two sports [at university] until I got here,” she said.
Ollerhead made the basketball team, fitting preseason practices around her commitments to the soccer team, before joining the team full time after the fall soccer season.
“I had so much fun, the girls were super great!” Ollerhead said. “[Balancing two sports] didn’t affect my grades. I see no negative side to playing two sports.”
That being said, balancing two varsity sports and a full biochemistry course load can get a bit hectic.
Struggling with injuries to the team, basketball coach Matt Gamble, reached out to Ollerhead the night of Oct. 28. Gamble asked if she would be able to dress for the second half of the basketball season opener at 2 pm the next day after the soccer game that would begin at 1 pm.
That day Ollerhead suited up for the Mounties final game of the season against UNB after playing the full 90 minutes the night before at UPEI. Once the soccer game was over, (another 90 minute effort) she stuck around for the end-of-season ceremonies. From there, she went to suit up for the basketball team.
“I took my gear off on the field, ran back inside and got my jersey on two minutes before halftime was over,” she said.
Sitting on the bench, Ollerhead was exhausted, but so were her eight teammates, battling it out in a close game against STU. Gamble asked her to go in. Ollerhead, who had been unable to attend the majority of practices due to her soccer schedule, asked about the team’s plays, to which Gamble responded, “don’t worry about the plays.”
The game ended in a one point loss for the Mounties, who have since hit their stride, winning three straight games.
Multi-sport athletes are not something new to Mt. A athletics. Jack Drover, a former athletic director and hockey coach talked about many such instances where students suited up for multiple teams. Drover remembered five members of the men’s soccer team that won the Atlantic Championships in 1976 were also key players for the hockey team.
One story reminiscent of Kate Ollerhead’s experience, is that of Dan Fergus in the 70s.
“It was homecoming weekend. Dan was our number one goalie on our soccer team. He had a shutout,” Drover said. “That afternoon, the football kicker was hurt and [Dan stepped in and] set a Canadian record with a 82 yard punt.”
Fergus, a member of the men’s hockey team, approached Drover to play that night against UPEI. At first resistant to the idea, Drover was eventually worn down by Fergus’s insistent pleas. “He played 45 minutes of the hockey game,” Drover said.
Emily van Diepen, a four-time AUS all-star in hockey and one-time all-star in soccer, as well as a two-time female athlete of the year winner, sees the opportunities to play multiple sports at Mt. A as a huge positive for the school.
“Being able to play both sports was definitely one of the deciding factors in me choosing MTA. I had grown up playing both sports and knew I wasn’t ready or willing to choose one sport over the other,” she wrote over Facebook.
Opportunities, not just in athletics, are what sets Mt. A apart from other schools, according to van Diepen.
“Whether it’s playing on two sports teams or volunteering at an array of local organizations, our small school makes taking on these tasks reasonable and even encourages it,” van Diepen added. “Other schools did offer the opportunity to play the two sports, but their were a lot of stipulations put in place that did not sound like the experience I was looking for.”
Speaking on the opportunity to play multiple sports, Drover said, “If they’re competent, why not? What a wonderful opportunity.” He added that, “when they have the reunions they can go back to two teams and share memories of it all.”
It’s not all glory for student-athletes, especially for those who choose to play for two teams. A lot of effort goes in behind the scenes.
“You just make it work,” said Ollerhead. This kind of mentality is what allows student athletes, especially those who take up two sports, to keep our athletic programs going and bring us the sports we know and love.
Drover, who coached varsity soccer and hockey for fifteen years, knows the difficulties athletes face with balancing multiple teams. With the support of those around him, and a little luck, Drover was able to balance both commitments.
“Luckily, it was around the same time that the microwave was invented,” he said.