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4 Lessons For Playing Multiple Sports From Patrick Mahomes, the Poster Boy of Multi-Sport Athletes

Patrick Mahomes is an anomaly, a once-in-a-generation athlete who kept all of his coaches at Whitehouse High School on edge about his future.

That, however, wasn’t intentional.

“We all understood that Patrick was good at all of them,” says Adam Cook, Patrick’s head football coach at Whitehouse, who is now the school’s athletic director. “In the back of our minds, we always thought he might come in and say, ‘I’m going to focus on this sport.’ He was the poster-boy for multi-sport athletes.”

It’s easy to gloss over Patrick’s background since the soon-to-be 25-year-old is already a regular-season and Super Bowl MVP for the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. What most people don’t know is that in baseball, Patrick threw a 93 mile-per-hour fastball and batted nearly .500 from the plate, compelling the Detroit Tigers to draft him in 2014. In basketball, he averaged 19.2 points and 8.3 rebounds his senior season. And in football, he posted mind-blowing statistics at Texas Tech.

But the reality is, Mahomes playing three sports to the end of high school may have impacted his opportunities, namely that he was a three-star football recruit who reportedly received just three collegiate offers. In fact, 247Sports ranked him the 398th-best recruit in the nation — and 50th-best in Texas — in the 2014 Class.

Still, in Whitehouse, which is just under two hours southeast of Dallas, everyone tracked Patrick’s potential because of his impressive body of work over many years. 

“We knew we had something special,” Cook says. “We knew he’d do great things, we just didn’t know what route he was going to go.”

Here are four lessons young athletes can take from Patrick’s youth sports experience:

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Naturally, Patrick’s parents were highly influential on him. His father, Patrick Sr., played 11 Major League seasons, but his mother Randi should be roundly thanked by the Chiefs and all its fans.

Before his junior season, Patrick was discouraged about football and contemplated focusing only on baseball.

“I just said you’re going to regret it if you quit," Randi told Fox4 in Kansas City.

Cook points to Patrick’s senior year for how he seamlessly — and passionately — pursued football, basketball and baseball. Trailing 58-39 with 4:30 left in the third quarter, Patrick engineered a dramatic comeback in a Class 4A Division II regional playoff game against Mesquite Poteet. But one of his receivers bobbled a solid pass and the ball was intercepted in the final moments of the game. Mahomes finished with 619 passing yards in a 65-60 loss, Whitehouse’s first loss of the season.

“We just ran out of time,” Cook recalls.

Afterward, a Whitehouse player threw a helmet. Patrick intervened.
 
‘He said, ‘Hey, we don’t do that,’ ” Cook recalls. 

That capped the school’s best season ever, with Patrick leading the team to a 12-1 record by racking up 5,559 total yards and 65 touchdowns. He was named the Texas 4A Player of the Year.

The following day, Patrick attended the varsity basketball team’s first practice. Once again, in the postseason, Patrick shined for his team, scoring 49 and 37 points in playoff victories. 

Then he wrapped up his high school career on the diamond. Because his father played professionally, including with the New York Yankees, Patrick interacted with legendary players such as Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez as a boy. Beyond the staggering statistics, though, Patrick also posted a no-hitter with 16 strikeouts in his final prep baseball season. Then, hours later, he tallied three hits, including a home run, in 10-3 win.

“He can do pretty much anything he wants to do on the baseball field," Whitehouse baseball coach Derrick Jenkins said. “Plus, he's the smartest baseball player I've ever coached.”

While many highlight the importance of young athletes playing multiple sports, that reality is increasingly difficult, especially for those who shine in one sport. They face pressure to pick a sport, oftentimes from the coach of a specific team and in a specific sport. 

“The goal is to make them athletes for life, not create the best 12-year-old athlete,” Jon Solomon, editorial director of the Aspen Institute Sports and Society Program, told Yahoo. “Patrick Mahomes is a good example of how cross-training can help in the long-term.”

Cook says Patrick — with his family’s support — didn’t try to fit into any box or follow the common path to sports beyond high school.

“Maybe you didn’t have a great day, but when the sun comes up tomorrow, you have a brand new day,” Cook says. “Patrick has been confident in who he is and just being himself, and writing his own story.” 

Intrinsically motivated

Patrick stands 6 foot 3 and weighs 230 pounds. Though he is known for his incredible arm strength and accuracy, he’s also had his share of SportsCenter-worthy highlights with his legs, pointing to his mobility and speed. 

But that’s not what made Patrick so special, Cook says. 

“You ask our trainer, ‘What is Patrick’s favorite sport?’ They respond, ‘Whichever season he happens to be in,’ ” Cook says. “He is a young man who loves competition, and he is focused in the moment. It doesn’t matter what it is, he is ready to compete.”

Cook adds that Patrick didn’t just focus on games. He pushed himself to improve in every practice, too.

Former Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt once said that Patrick was the most competitive person he’d ever met; previous features about Patrick reveal how competitive he is with everything from ping-pong to golf. Patrick points to growing up around professional athletes for his nature.

“Definitely growing up in a locker room,” Patrick once told Bleacher Report. “If you watch those guys, they compete at everything. My dad is the same exact way. He still competes with me to this day. He thinks he can beat me in a foot race.”

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said at a press conference that Patrick’s proximity to pro athletes when he was younger reflects in his aggressiveness and competitiveness. But Reid pointed to other intangible traits that distinguish Patrick.

"His leadership ability, his ability to feel, I don't know if you can teach that part,” Reid said. “You can teach the fundamentals and those things, but then they put their own personality on it. You want to make sure that takes place. He's done that.”

 

Coaches who support you

Cook, Whitehouse’s football coach, realized that Patrick possessed some unique athletic skills. But rather than change Patrick’s mechanics, Cook was careful not to push his young quarterback too much. 

That sensitivity was born out of his own experience when he was younger. A skilled multi-sport athlete, Cook recalls how a baseball coach in high school insisted that he needed to adjust his approach to batting. Though he was a very good hitter, Cook struggled with the tweaks. 

“I lost all confidence,” Cook says, “and because of that, I always said, ‘I am not going to put kids in a box.’ Patrick’s arm was never where you wanted it, but he got it done. I didn’t want to over coach him.”

patrick mahomes and coach

Cook and his assistants worked with Patrick on his footwork, but they always prioritized making sure that Patrick wasn’t overthinking when he was on the field, trusting his natural instincts and abilities. 

“It’s kind of an odd thing,” Cook says. “There are so many quarterback groomers who want you to do it this way, where everyone is looking for a cookie-cutter throw, drop or mechanic. But Patrick has broken the mold on so many of those pre-thoughts about playing the quarterback position.”

Besides, Cook says, some of those improvisational skills that shine on the football field were honed and refined in basketball and baseball. The no-look passes, the flicks from his arm at different angles. Baseball players sometimes do a drill called the Long Toss, which involves throwing a ball a big distance, simulating a throw from perhaps the outfield to home plate. There’s a YouTube clip of Patrick throwing a baseball 65 yards — from his knees!

At Texas Tech, the Red Raiders famously counted on Mahomes to attempt lots of passes. 

“I think the baseball had me prepared from being the pitcher,” Mahomes said at a press conference. “I remember one of my buddies who was my roommate my freshman year of college, he came up to me the last drive and was like, ‘You have 77 pass attempts right now.’ I was like, ‘Man that’s a lot of passes.’ ”

Do not fear failure 

Thanks to his mom, Patrick didn’t quit football, and he wasn’t frustrated to be a three-star recruit or to receive two or three football scholarships. And after enrolling at Texas tech, he played baseball — and struggled mightily. On Feb. 21, 2015, vs. Northern Illinois, Mahomes made his collegiate baseball debut, entering the game in the ninth inning with the Red Raiders up 6-0. According to The Athletic, Patrick threw 11 balls, with two walks, one hit batter and registering no outs. All three batters he faced scored. He was also hitless in two plate appearances.

And while he had some legendary performances at Texas Tech in football, Patrick’s teams didn’t necessarily thrive during his tenure. His record was 13-16 as a starter, with no victories in six games against ranked opponents. His best season was 2015, when he was a sophomore, and the Red Raiders went 7-6.

That certainly played a role in Patrick lasting until the 10th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, eight spots behind quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. But he’s obviously thrived under the tutelage of Reid, who has worked with standout quarterbacks such as Brett Favre, Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick and Alex Smith.

Growing up, Cook didn't have a favorite team, instead following great quarterbacks such as John Elway and Troy Aikman.

“I loved to watch them compete,” Cook says. “But now I have a favorite team and a favorite player. I couldn’t be more proud of Patrick, not only with what he’s done but how he’s done it. It’s a pretty neat and kind of surreal.”

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