Only about 7,000 out of around 1.2 million known animals are classified as amphibians: animals that live and thrive both on land and in the water. These animals include turtles, frogs, salamanders… and Alex Massey.
Tennessee’s Alexandra Massey is a junior in high school who swims for Ensworth Aquatics; however, when she is not in the pool, she is often engaging in the very activity that horrifies many other swimmers– running. Massey competes for her school’s cross country and track teams in addition to swimming for her club team, and, especially with the Tennessee State Cross Country Championships this weekend, Massey is looking forward to some exciting performances both in and out of the pool.
Participating in multiple sports can be both physically and emotionally taxing, however, it is more than possible for athletes to achieve success when passion is a driving force. In a competitive society that values specialization from an early age, many athletes lose motivation and burn out before they can realize their ultimate potentials. Massey acknowledges this sentiment, and credits her love for the water and for running as her intrinsic motivators. She believes that “…it is tragic when people lose their passion for the true nature of sport because they get caught up in defining themselves by who they can beat or forget to love the feeling of what they do. Of course no one likes to lose, but if you love the sport then it’s easy to [be] motivated.”
Playing multiple sports has many advantages, such as less pressure therefore leading to a slimmer chance of burnout, fewer overuse injuries, and often more consistent performance. Massey hopes that USA Swimming’s initiative to increase multi-sport participation will encourage other swimmers to branch out, but does acknowledge that competing at a high level both in the pool and on the track/course has been challenging at times. Fortunately, Massey has had “extraordinarily understanding and supportive” coaches and teammates that have helped her reach her goals and manage her time effectively as she juggles an ambitious academic and athletic schedule.
Massey stresses that she puts herself through these challenges purely out of love for what she does. By participating in three sports, she has been able to develop connections with three different sets of people that have helped her to grow both as an athlete and a person. Joy is the key factor that keeps her moving, whether it be on land or in the water, “You know how when a dog runs in his sleep? When I think about running, that is how I feel, the same pleasure a dog gets from chasing a squirrel in his dreams. There is so much to enjoy about swimming, cross country, and track and field.”