Specialization? Not for this “Wolfman”

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By Phil Brozynski

Peter Doerrer is going to college in the fall. He will likely attend Purdue to study engineering. He could go anywhere and play volleyball. But volleyball is not his primary sport. Doerrer is a basketball player, and a pretty darned good one.

When was the last time you heard that?

In this era of specialization, fewer and fewer athletes are multi-tasking. I looked back over some rosters from the past few years and found only a handful of basketball players who “moonlighted” on the volleyball court in the spring.

I remember when volleyball was touted as a “natural” sport to which basketball players might matriculate in the spring. Volleyball included jumping, a little running, coordination, teamwork. Some of the same attributes required in basketball. Of course, that was in the days prior to the unchecked proliferation of spring basketball leagues.

Oddly, despite the severe shortage of men’s volleyball scholarships available (primarily due to the impact of Title IX), are the number of basketball scholarships available to those same city and suburban athletes any greater? Proportionally speaking, with the thousands and thousands of boys playing basketball across the United States and competing for scholarships, can one’s chance of landing a scholarship in basketball be any greater than in volleyball?

But back to Doerrer. What makes him so special is that he excels in both sports, and he could have likely chosen a college path in one or the other. He still may choose to pursue basketball, but his primary focus is on academics. That knowledge allowed him to enjoy the past spring as he led St. Ignatius to second place in the Catholic League tournament last weekend – the school’s highest finish ever in the tournament.

“When I took over the program three years ago, Peter was one of three sophomores who I coached the year prior as freshman who I brought up to the varsity team,” St. Ignatius coach Mark Johnston said. “All three sophomores started, but he had the biggest impact on the team (playing middle hitter), leading the team in kills and blocks.

“That year, we upset the No. 2 team in our sectional, Oak Park, to win the regional,” the coach added. “It was only the second regional title in school history. After that year’s performance, I knew I had something special with Peter.

“Peter has been my go-to guy for three years now,” Johnston said. “He has definitely turned around a struggling program. Thanks to Peter, we are now going for first-ever sectional title. He is a great kid with a great attitude on and off the court. He will truly be missed.”

When his high school volleyball career is finished, Doerrer will have amassed more than 900 kills and rank among Illinois’ top all-time kill leaders. More importantly, at least a few will remember that he thumbed his nose at specialization and decided to enjoy his high school experience.

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