Blaine defenseman Emily Brown and Eden Prairie defenseman Nicky Leivermann love to play hockey – and they’re darn good at it, too.
Leivermann co-captained the Eagles to a third-place finish at the 2017 boys’ state high school hockey tournament. He led all Lake Conference defensemen with 40 points (12 goals, 28 assists) and was a Mr. Hockey finalist.
Brown won gold with Team USA at the 2016 Under-18 Women’s World Championships and led the Bengals to a second-place finish at the 2017 state tournament. Brown tallied 45 points (16 goals, 29 assists) and was a finalist for the Ms. Hockey award.
While hockey tops the list of their athletic achievements, Brown and Leivermann – both Division I hockey recruits – are not one-trick ponies. Not by a long shot.
Brown is a three-sport athlete, an all-conference soccer player and captain of the track and field team. She is Blaine’s 2017 Athena Award winner. Leivermann is an all-conference lacrosse player and co-captain on Eden Prairie’s team. He also enjoys as many other sports as he can in his downtime.
Both are prime examples of multisport success and long-term athlete development.
“I don’t know any other way,” said Brown, who’s committed to play hockey at the University of Minnesota next season. “I couldn’t imagine just playing hockey, or just playing soccer. I love them both.”
“Playing two or three sports, I don’t know why people say that’s such a bad thing,” said Leivermann, a Notre Dame hockey recruit. “It’s keeping you active and keeping you in touch with skills that you need for basically any sport. I don’t see the point in quitting and focusing on just one.
“Play as many as you can.”
Different Sports, Different Positions
Making Leivermann and Brown’s situation even more unique is their choice in positions. While both are defensemen on the ice, Leivermann leads the attack for the lacrosse team. Brown is a goalkeeper in soccer.
“I love that pressure in soccer and again on defense in hockey, there’s some pressure that goes along with it,” Brown said. “I like being counted on by your team, no matter what sport it is, just rising to the challenge.”
Despite the discontinuity in positions from sport to sport, playing them has benefited both players in all sports. Lacrosse and soccer are both invasion sports; sports that involve similar tactics and strategy but also develop and expand new and different skills that are transferable to hockey.
As a goalkeeper, Brown surveys the field and watches plays develop while also focusing on angling, explosiveness and hand-eye coordination – all with traffic – trying to keep the ball out of the net. All of these skills and IQ transfer to hockey. Her 400- and 800-meter training and racing also help her develop explosiveness, speed and endurance.
Leivermann gets to experience the front end of the offensive attack, a reversal of his role on the blue line. There’s no doubt his scoring prowess in lacrosse has helped shape him as an offensive defenseman, a precious commodity. His experience on the attack and working around the net from an offensive standpoint gives him confidence and a different perspective as a defenseman on the ice.
It’s also helped him on the power play.
“The main connection in both of the sports is that I’m kind of the QB out there,” said Leivermann. “Playing defense in hockey I’m on the back end on the power play where you got to kind of run it, and in lacrosse I’m kind of the same guy.
Adding to the Friendship Team
Playing multiple sports adds to kids’ social circles, too.
“You get a whole new group of friends,” said Brown. “People I have been able to be teammates with and just meet has tripled because I don’t focus on one sport. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of very cool opportunities I don’t think I would have had sticking with one sport, like going to state with multiple sports. There’s so many memories that you can’t get by only playing one sport.”
Avoiding the Burnout
For Leivermann, the spring and summer months are a much-welcomed break.
“Sometimes when you’re in a sport, you want the next one to come towards the end of the season, just because it’s maybe getting a little long,” Leivermann said. “It’s nice to have a change of venue and be outside with a different group of guys and playing lacrosse instead of being at the rink everyday – even though I absolutely love that – but it’s just nice to have a new coaching staff and a new group of guys and just be able to have a different experience.”
Brown agrees and advises other kids to enjoy as much as you can for as long as you can:
“My advice: don’t specialize. There is plenty of time when you’re older to focus on one sport. Enjoy everything, sports or other activities, while you can.”
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