Seeing double

It’s morning at the Mount Vernon soccer field. A forward sprints down the field to score a goal during practice. That same afternoon, an athlete bearing a striking resemblance to the soccer player sprints to catch a fly ball in the outfield at the nearby softball field.

Coincidence? No, it’s just another day for Rebecca Schumer, GW’s only two-sport athlete. As number five, Schumer adds to the soccer team’s speed and depth. As number seven, she adds a competitive fire to the softball team’s inaugural season.

Most athletes would agree playing one Division I college sport is a big commitment. So how does this ambitious freshman play two?

It’s Schumer’s athleticism, competitive edge and hard-working mentality, teammates say, that allow her to succeed in both sports.

“She’s a great athlete. Practicing against her competitive edge is good for all of the players,” softball teammate Elana Meyers said. “With her, every day is a competition. She’s so hard working and pushes everyone.”

Recruited by GW head soccer coach Tanya Vogel out of high school, Schumer never planned to play both sports at GW. Though she loved softball and would have liked to play in college, her heart was set on GW, which did not have a team at the time.

But GW added a softball program the summer before Schumer’s freshman year, and with some persuasion from classmate Meyers, the softball team’s sole recruit, Schumer spoke with head coach Leslie King Moore about playing for the team in its inaugural season.

“I was talking to (Moore) and her energy just shoots through you,” Schumer said. “I just couldn’t say no. I played in high school and I really wanted to play in college. It’s a great opportunity being a part of the first team here.”

Moore, who had been hired in the middle of the summer and lacked a recruiting class, was anxious for more athletes to join her squad. Because Schumer had played softball in high school and possessed more collegiate competition experience than anyone else on the team, Moore knew that she would be an asset both physically and mentally.

On the softball diamond, Schumer plays the outfield and her speed has earned her a position as a pinch runner. But above her athletic abilities, both Moore and Meyers say that her determination and hard work have helped on the inexperienced team.

“My team is all walk-ons, so I was in need of bodies and she was keen to play,” Moore said. “She has a lot of athleticism, she’s determined and she works hard. I like her competitiveness and her positive attitude.”

Schumer said both of her coaches are supportive of her athletic endeavors and each makes it possible for her to split her time among the two. Although Vogel recruited her, Schumer said her soccer coach is in favor of her decision to play two sports and has been working with Moore to make her unique situation work.

“Sure, she sacrifices some of the individual gains that she would make during the spring season because she has to miss practice,” Vogel said. “But Becca is a diligent and committed athlete and will grow smarter and stronger because of her experience on another sports team. Her experience with different coaches and different athletes will only benefit our soccer team.”

Schumer’s priorities lie with whichever team is in season, with some exceptions. For example, she was allowed to travel with the soccer team to Europe during spring break while the softball team had games and practices.

It’s no surprise that Schumer has no free time. She leaves her room at 7:30 a.m. and doesn’t return until the evening. In between, she has soccer and softball practices, classes, lifting and study hall.

“I think what she’s doing is amazing,” Meyers said. “She’s a role model. Anyone who can pull a 3.0 and play two sports, it says a lot about her and her personality.”

Even weekends, which are breaks for other college students, are packed for Schumer. If she doesn’t have a softball game, she is competing with her soccer team in an off-season tournament.

For next year, Schumer’s coaches decided to have her concentrate on one sport a season instead of making her juggle both on a given day. Both coaches expressed concern over the toll playing two sports is taking on her body, since she has acquired a stress fracture and a shoulder injury.

“We’re going to lay off her in the non-traditional season,” Moore said concerning off-season workouts. “We want her to play both but it’s just a matter of how her body can cope. We want to do what’s in her best interest.”

When she’s not in her cleats, Schumer sports a supportive boot to try and heal the stress fracture, the result of a year’s worth of in-season competition. Despite the pain, she said that she will play as long as she can.

“I could be on crutches and in a wheelchair and I’d still have no regrets about what I’m doing now,” Schumer said. “I can’t imagine what I’m going to do next year, but I’ll do whatever I can do to prepare myself.”

Vogel said with a year of experience under her belt, her new training schedule and a less rigid soccer schedule, Schumer will be even better at both her sports next year. But Schumer is just taking it one day at a time.

“Never in my life did I imagine that I would be playing two Division I sports,” she said. “I just want to take advantage of it while I can, because when I look back on this, I want to say ‘wow, look what I did.'”

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