According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), eight million students compete in high school athletics annually. Of these eight million students, only 480,000 will have the opportunity to participate in a collegiate level program recognized by the NCAA. Six percent of high school athletes are selected to pursue a collegiate level career at either a Division I, II or III level program. Wellesley College, a Division III school that competes in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC), currently boasts fourteen varsity level sports teams and 237 athletes.
Of Wellesley’s 237 athletes, only 20 compete in two varsity level sports on campus, 13 of whom participate in cross country during the fall semester and track and field during the spring semester. These outliers are often referred to as “two” or “dual” sport athletes by the athletic community and are widely respected by their coaches, teammates and classmates alike.
Carley Phillips ’20 is one of the 20 dual sport athletes representing the Wellesley Blue. The first year from Waterford, CT initially chose Wellesley for its strong academics and lacrosse program. It was not until the end of her high school career that Phillips decided to become a member of Wellesley’s soccer team.
When asked about her decision Phillips shared, “I’ve been playing soccer and lacrosse for my entire life. Not playing both would have been weird. Obviously it takes up a lot of time, but I think it’s worth it because I really enjoy both sports.”
Unlike her lacrosse teammates who were hard at work in their fall season, Phillips spent her first semester of college competing on the soccer field. The dual sport athlete had a successful season, starting all 18 games for the Wellesley Blue and establishing herself as the team’s leading scorer. Phillips was named the NEWMAC Player of the Week on Sept. 6, 2016 after earning a hat trick in a conference game against Coast Guard and was selected for the NEWMAC Women’s Soccer All-Conference team. After the soccer season ended, Phillips transitioned to lacrosse and began lifting with the team. Her first collegiate level game will take place on March 1, 2017 at Bates College.
Lauren Schoenberger, the head coach of Wellesley’s lacrosse team, shared why she thinks Phillips is so successful at both sports, “I think Carley keeps a really good perspective. She really seems to focus on the task at hand and not think too far ahead. When she’s at lacrosse she’s definitely at lacrosse and when she’s at soccer she’s definitely at soccer. I think keeping that focus helps her to keep that balance.”
Dual sport athletes knowingly sacrifice the off-season that every Division III single sport athlete gets to enjoy due to strict NCAA regulations. Since these athletes are in season during the fall and spring semesters, they are expected to juggle a sport, extracurricular activities and a full Wellesley course load for the entirety of the school year. Phillips indicated that her day to day life consists of going to class for several hours a day, working out at least once on her own, practicing or lifting with the team and then finishing her homework for the night. Though busy, Phillips is content with her life as a dual sport athlete at Wellesley College.
When asked whether she would recommend this unique path to an incoming recruit who is passionate about more than one sport, Carley responded, “I think definitely because it gives you two groups of friends and two different perspectives. It also keeps you in shape, which is always a good thing. Playing two sports keeps me focused and it keeps my priorities straight. Sometimes athletes get in little funks, but when you play two sports, you always have your teammates there to support you.”
Schoenberger agrees that dual sport athletes receive major benefits. “Being a student athlete in general gives you all of those buzz words we know. Confidence, leadership, discipline, accountability, teamwork, and everything good that helps you later on in life. I think being a dual sport athlete just adds to all of that. Instead of having 25 teammates that you’re developing those skills with you have 50. You also have two different cultures and two different experiences that you can balance out against each other and take the best of both.”