There's some merit to the belief that the three-sport high school athlete is on its way to becoming a relic. More parents encourage their kids to specialize these days in hopes of earning athletic scholarships, and steer them to club and travel teams happy to facilitate the process.
But in some Bay Rivers District households, the three-sport athlete is a cherished family tradition. New Kent senior Karley Allen, the Daily Press Female Athlete of the Year, grew up in such a home, as did Warhill junior Devonte Dedmon, the Daily Press Male Athlete of the Year.
Allen's father, Eddie Allen, was a football, basketball and baseball star at New Kent in the 1960s before playing baseball at William and Mary. Her four siblings played no fewer three sports apiece at New Kent.
Dedmon's father, Dennis Dedmon, was a football, basketball and baseball standout at Gloucester High in the late-1970s, joined on many of those teams by Devonte's uncles, while his mom Gina played basketball, softball and cheered for Gloucester. Playing three sports is no chore for Allen or Dedmon, whose common thread is an uncommon joy of competition.
"I like playing three sports a lot," said Dedmon, who plays quarterback, running back, receiver, defensive back and returner in football, is a guard in basketball and an all-state sprinter in track. "My dad always said to be skilled in a lot of things, not just one.
"Everything is a competition for me. I try my hardest whatever sport I'm in at the time."
Allen is a state record-setting hitter for the Trojans state quarterfinalists in volleyball, a sport in which she was the 2012 Bay Rivers District, Region I and Daily Press Player of the Year. She was a prolific rebounder this past season in basketball, a sport she played for the first time in high school, and the star shortstop of a New Kent softball team that came within a whisker of winning the district title and of reaching the state tournament.
"I love competition," said Allen, who will play volleyball at the University of Virginia-Wise on scholarship in the fall. "Whether it's that three-game volleyball match, 32 minutes in a basketball game or seven innings in softball, nothing else matters during that time.
"I'm focused on the ball or whatever I can do to improve or help my team when I'm out there."
It wasn't always so for Allen. She was a self-described princess up to the age of 8, who loved Barbies and whose only sport was swimming because she didn't want to sweat.
She inevitably caught the family bug. That could've been from standing on the blocking sled while her father, a legendary coach at New Kent, tutored the football offense, or riding on the tractors with him as he dragged or cut the fields.
Or it could've been from watching older sister Deborah, a 10-time All-Tidewater District pick in three sports. But most likely it was because she was jealous of older brother Steven, the former Bay Rivers District Boys Basketball Player of the Year and, at three years older, the closest sibling to her in age.
"Steven always got recognition for sports, so I said, maybe I'll play sports and get some recognition," she said. "I played on a 12-and-under softball team that went to Florida when I was eight, and that forced me into becoming more competitive because they were all die-hard.
"When I committed to volleyball in seventh grade, any chance I had to touch the ball, I was taking it," Allen said. "I went to camps and always had a ball in my hands in the backyard."
She moved into the starting lineup at New Kent as a freshman, bypassing some seniors who felt her status as part of New Kent's first family of sports got her onto the floor.
"Some of them said the only reason I'm playing is because of my dad," she said of Eddie, who was athletic director and head basketball coach at the time. "As much as that hurt me, it kind of pushed me and made me the player I am today.
"I would stay after practices and get our setter to set me more balls. I would hit more balls, pass more balls and I would serve more balls. I would do anything I could just to prove myself."
It's safe to say that she has. Allen had 462 kills this past season, 100 more than any other player nominated for all-district or all-region. Her 371 digs were the most in the region for someone not playing libero (defensive specialist), while her 78 aces and 48 blocks ranked third among all-district and all-region candidates.
Allen is first on the all-time state list for spikes (2,925) and, of the seven statistical categories in which she ranks in the state career top 10, four involve hitting. Her big senior year included a 19-rebound game and an average of 11 boards per contest although she had barely picked up a basketball since seventh grade.
She batted .370 and anchored the Trojans defense in softball. Allen will finish her playing career for the East Squad in the Virginia High School Coaches Association Volleyball All-Star Game in July, proud to have carried on the family legacy at New Kent.
"I don't want to say it was expected of me, but I've grown up around people noticed for being outstanding in athletics," she said. "That pushed me to achieve."
Dedmon's charge to Bay Rivers and Daily Press Offensive Player of the Year in football began by him accounting for more than 190 yards and two touchdowns in little more than a half of the Lions' season-opening 20-17 win over eventual regional finalist Park View. The extent of his competitiveness became clear in the wake of an ankle sprain that sidelined him the second half of that game, then limited him to three touches in a loss against York.
The ankle still bothered him as he practiced for the next game against Poquoson. But he took to heart the words of his coach, Billy Jarvis, using them to burn the Islanders for 212 yards rushing and three touchdowns, as well as 101 yards and a TD on two pass completions in a 32-14 victory.
"Coach said that excuses are just a way to justify failure," Dedmon said. "I decided I was going to do whatever I had to help the team, because I felt horrible after the York game.
"Coming into the Poquoson game I told everyone, 'Don't even talk to me, because I've got to get my mind ready.' I was in the zone."
Except when really hurt or ill, he stayed in that zone the rest of the season, The 5-foot-11, 170-pounder missed virtually all of the Bruton game after taking a vicious but clean hit from Kapri Doucet, then was slowed the next week against Lafayette by the worst flu of his life.
He rebounded with 234 rushing yards and two touchdowns, along with 62 receiving yards — a 43-yard TD reception included — in a 28-10 win over Grafton.
"That Grafton game stands out because we were picked to lose and were being called soft and not physical," said Dedmon, who accounted for most of his more than 2,000 yards and 23 touchdowns in the Lions six wins during a second straight playoff run. "We came out ready to play hard and play to win."
Dedmon was just as tough during a basketball season in which he averaged 17.5 points as a first team all-district guard for the 16-8 regional playoff-bound Lions. An inadvertent elbow from a teammate damaged cartilage in his nose, prompting him to wear a mask.
"Fans were yelling, 'Take the mask off. You're not Superman,'" Dedmon said. "But playing against (cross-town rivals) Jamestown and Lafayette brought out the superhero in me."
A Jamestown player accidentally raked the mask off of Dedmon on a layup attempt. He made that basket anyway en route to a 25-point performance in a 64-57 win.
In the next game against Lafayette he took the mask off in the third quarter, having scored only four points and the Lions trailing 49-42. He would go on to score 23 of his 27 points thereafter, leading Warhill to a 78-71 victory.
During the spring it was on to track, where he specialized in the 100 and 200 meters. Too competitive to simply use the sport to keep in shape for football and hoops, Dedmon gave it his all and finished fifth at 200 and sixth at 100 in the AA state meet.
"It helped me get a lot faster, especially in the 40," said Dedmon, who recently ran a 4.43 and has five Division I football scholarship offers with more certainly on the way. "I didn't want to go out there and not compete.
"I don't want off time, because I love competing. Everyday my goal is to push myself to be great."
Mission accomplished for Dedmon and Allen, who are proof the three-sport high school athlete still thrives.
SCHOOL: New Kent.
SPORTS: Volleyball, basketball and softball.
NOTEWORTHY: Bay Rivers District, Region I and Daily Press Volleyball Player of the Year. … Led New Kent to AA state tournament as a senior, establishing a new Virginia High School League career record with 2,925 spikes. … Will play in Virginia High School Coaches Association All-Stars Volleyball Game in July. … Had 19 rebounds in a basketball game for the Trojans this past season. … Batted nearly .370 for softball team, leading Trojans to Region I semifinals. … Will play volleyball on scholarship for University of Virginia-Wise.
SPORTS: Football, basketball, track and field.
NOTEWORTHY: Bay Rivers District and Daily Press Offensive Player of the Year in football. … Rushed for 212 yards or better in four games in 2012 and 171 in another, with a best of 289 yards and four touchdowns against Tabb. … Averaged 17.5 points, earning first team all-district honors as a guard in basketball. … Scored points in three events in the AA state track meet, finishing sixth in the 100 and fifth in the 200. … Peninsula Sports Club High School Athlete of the Year.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun