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High Schools | Eric Sondheimer

Specializing Would've Cost Him Something Special

September 02, 2003

Refusing to give in to peer pressure requires courage, discipline and self-confidence. Those are the qualities Geoff Schwartz of Palisades High has exhibited in his decision to be a three-sport athlete.

So many adults and teenagers have told him over and over: "You can dominate in one sport or be mediocre in three."

Schwartz decided to ignore the skeptics his sophomore season and played football, basketball and baseball. He stuck with his commitment as a junior, becoming a varsity starter in each sport despite the critics, who never stopped predicting that his chances for earning a college scholarship would be diminished.

At 6 feet 7 and 315 pounds, Schwartz is big enough to stand up to most.

"I thought I was talented enough to handle it," he said.

He was an all-league offensive tackle in football, averaged eight points and six rebounds in basketball and was an all-league pitcher. His coaches at Palisades were surprisingly cooperative in helping him juggle practice schedules and off-season workouts.

As he begins his senior year, Schwartz is not only on a path to receive a football scholarship but also to prove that a three-sport athlete can not only exist but thrive in this time of specialization.

"I've learned that it definitely can be done, but it takes a special kind of kid to do it," football Coach Jason Blatt said. "Kids today have problems focusing on one sport, let alone three."

Schwartz pulls off his three-sport commitment because he stays focused on academics while convincing himself that he can keep improving in each sport.

"The toughest part is having no time," Schwartz said. "You'd think the weekend would be for relaxing, but it's even worse. During the week, you know you have school, practice and go home and do homework. On the weekend, you're everywhere and drive anywhere."

There's no doubt if Schwartz had devoted his time exclusively to football, he might be a stronger blocker. He didn't start seriously lifting weights until earlier this year and has already improved enough to generate interest from Stanford and Arizona State.

Said Blatt: "His speed has increased tremendously since last year."

Said Schwartz: "It took me six, seven games to really understand what I had to do."

But Schwartz has no regrets. He'll have time to develop into a dominant football player in college. Meanwhile, he has been able to enjoy his high school experience to the max. He wanted to play basketball to stay in shape. He plays baseball because it has been his favorite sport since he was 5. During the summer, he attended a couple of football camps, went to a baseball camp and played in several basketball tournaments.

Schwartz wears size-19 shoes and probably could open a sporting goods store, considering the number of cleats, T-shirts, jerseys, hats, basketballs, footballs, baseballs, bats and gloves he owns.

Not everyone told him he'd fail in his three-sport pursuit. His parents supported him, along with several of his father's friends. In the end, it was his choice to reject conventional wisdom and pursue a challenging but doable task.

Last spring, he got to play at Dodger Stadium in the City Invitational final, a memory that will last a lifetime.

"If you can handle the demand on your body, plus your schoolwork, why not [try three sports]," Schwartz said.

Eric Sondheimer can be reached at eric.sondheimer@latimes.com.

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