Women for all seasons: Three’s a charm for year-round athletes
by Will Springstead
In the world of Megan Lawler and Jodi Wheeler, boredom is to be avoided at any cost.
Even if the cost is little time for social activities, overlapped athletic seasons, and an inordinate amount of time spent on buses going to Rochester and Potsdam.
|Megan Lawler ’01|
The Skidmore College seniors are part of a unique group: three-sport athletes at the NCAA Division III level. Lawler plays soccer, basketball, and lacrosse, while Wheeler plays field hockey, basketball, and softball.
And while their competitive spirit drives them, that is only part of the reason they are constantly on the go. If Satan can find mischief for idle hands, this pair isn’t taking any chances.
“I get bored too quickly if I have free time,” says Lawler, a business major from West Springfield, Mass. “The original plan freshman year was to play soccer and lacrosse, but when soccer ended, I missed basketball, so I went out for it.”
Wheeler, an exercise science major from Brandon, Vt., wanted to see if she could play all three sports her freshman year. If she could do that, she vowed she would play all four years. “I couldn’t imagine not playing all three sports,” she remarks. “I really get bored.”
According to statistics from the NCAA, only 7 percent of all student-athletes in Division III play three sports. But Lawler and Wheeler don’t just play the sports; they excel at them.
Lawler is the leading scorer and captain of the Thoroughbreds lacrosse team, a three-year starter for the basketball team, and captain and goaltender for the soccer team. In soccer, she earned all-UCAA honors as a freshman in midfield before moving to goal. She was a first-team all-UCAA selection in lacrosse last season and will be one of the league’s top players again this year.
Wheeler, a captain in all three of her sports, has been a steady offensive threat on the field hockey team for three years, twice going to the NCAA tournament. She finished her career fourth on the program’s all-time scoring list, with 35 goals and 37 assists for 107 points.
“If Jodi is there, your group is there, and the same with Megan,” says field hockey and lacrosse coach Katharine DeLorenzo. “They are people who have defined the direction and personality of the teams they’ve been on.”
|Jodi Wheeler ’01|
As basketball players, both are hard workers, according to head coach Erika Gillis, but they also are very different. Wheeler is a natural basketball player, a scrappy guard who knows her way around the court in all situations. Lawler is more of a student of the game, but is equally adept and usually a star on defense. “The best thing is that when they come to play, they just want to compete and leave everything else outside,” Gillis observes.
This spring, the two women move right into the sports for which they are both in the Skidmore record books.
Lawler is an attacker on the lacrosse team, where she scored 54 points last season and was named to the All-UCAA first team. She had scored 40 and 21 points the prior two years and now ranks sixth on Skidmore’s all-time list in both goals (101) and points (115).
Wheeler, meanwhile, is the softball catcher others will be measured against. She is a two-time All-UCAA selection and batted .358 and .378 the last two seasons. She holds the school record for RBI in a game, racking up eight in the team’s 25-1 win over Hartwick last April.
“They want to be good teammates and good players in all their sports,” DeLorenzo says.” They learn their sports and find a role. They have a unique ability to know themselves as athletes.” She adds, “It’s a joy as a coach to have people who know their skills and enhance them, but also know their limitations.”
At the same time, academics are a priority for both students. And they’ve always gotten the work done, which speaks volumes about their dedication. “They have no down time—and they wouldn’t know what to do with it,” Gillis says.
But Lawler and Wheeler do know how to take what they have learned in one sport and apply it to another. “The basketball has helped me with lacrosse, on plays like the pick-and-roll that you do in both sports. I think playing in all three helps me see more things,” Lawler says. “Each team is really different,” Wheeler says, “but they’re all very intense. The two coaches I play for love what they’re doing and have great knowledge of the games.”
They also have great patience. While other coaches might be upset at having to wait for their players until they finish another sport, Gillis and DeLorenzo see nothing but positives from the experience.
According to Gillis, “It says they want to work. You could see as freshmen they weren’t afraid of tackling the rigorous academics and athletics at this institution. Each one will sometimes struggle a little juggling the load, but there’s never any real worry.”
“An athlete should play as many sports by as many different coaches as possible,” declares DeLorenzo. “The competitiveness you gain from playing in three seasons is tremendous. Because of that, they know sooner than most when things are working or not working.” She adds, “There is an unwritten sort of athletes’ code: with people who play sports all the time, there is an amount of respect automatically given.”
That’s a respect both students hope to keep when they move on to coaching, which is in both players’ plans…eventually. As Wheeler puts it, “Coaching is my main goal for now. I want to find a club team and keep playing, but coaching is in my future.”
Who knows? They might even coach three sports each.
This story was adapted, with permission, from the Saratogian of October 1, 2000. Will Springstead is the Saratogian’s sports editor.
The previous Scope (winter 2001) misidentified the Thoroughbred soccer player pictured on page 20. Instead of Andy Meehan ’03, it was in fact Andrew Simon ’02. Apologies to both Andrews.