SportsEvents Magazine

AUG 2016

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August 2016 14 ONE-on-ONE t One-on-One features an interview with an influential member of the sports community concerning a specific topic. This month former University of Oregon athlete Elizabeth Brenner, discusses specialization in youth sports. In any day and age, Elizabeth Brenner would stand out for her earthly athletic prowess. In this age of youth sports specialization, her accomplishments seem somewhat oth- erworldly. Brenner played volleyball, basketball and softball throughout her youth sport years, and eventually added track and field while at Jesuit High School in Portland, OR. She didn't stop there. Brenner played varsity volleyball, basketball, softball, as well as track and field at the University of Oregon, earning loads of awards and acco- lades. She played for the NCAA Volleyball National Championship and earned second-team All-America honors; competed in the Women's College Softball World Series; and placed eighth in javelin at the NCAA Women's Track Field Championships. In 2012, she was one of three finalists for the AAU James E. Sullivan Award, handed out to the nation's top amateur athlete, male or female. Swimmer Missy Franklin earned that honor after her breakout performances at the London Olympic Games. The idea of focusing on one sport never crossed Brenner's mind growing up. She felt pressure from coaches and others to specialize but never from her parents, a pair of former collegiate swimmers. "My parents were absolute amazing," Brenner said. "Never once did they say 'Stop doing this' or 'Stop doing that.' I was in sports from the young age of 5. As I got older, I didn't want to stop doing them all." Not everyone backed her efforts to chart her own course. "It was definitely tough," Brenner said. "I had a lot of coaches who were upset that I would miss practices and games. I had parents of other players who were upset when I'd miss practices and still get to play in games." Undaunted, Brenner stayed true to her- self and believes she reaped the rewards of not specializing in any one sport. "I say play as many sports as you can for as long as you can," Brenner said. "I know specialization is a big idea and a lot of people are pushing it, but I know I'm the athlete I am today because I could play a lot of sports." Does she know exactly how that made her a better athlete in each sport? "Absolutely," Brenner said. "One huge thing is that I've never had a serious injury. I really think that's because I would play volleyball five months then play basketball. My volleyball hitting shoulder was never shredded to pieces because I took a break when I'd play basketball and use a whole different set of muscles. "I think because of all the cross training I did, I never got burned out from a sport. Mentally, I always had another sport to look forward to. My body never gave up on me because each sport used different muscles." Volleyball has been Brenner's primary sport over the years. It's the sport she loves most. It created challenges but also opened oppor- tunities for her in ways she would have never imagined. "Yes, I ran into a cou- ple of roadblocks along the way," Brenner said. "A big one at Jesuit was that I played softball my freshman and sophomore years. (My junior year) I had a national qualifier in Las Vegas for club volleyball and I would miss a softball tournament to go to it. The softball coach said, 'You miss the tournament and you'll sit out half the season.' So I went out for track instead and BY JOHN REZELL One- on- One Specializing In Variety Brenner

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