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Original Issue

Back to School

Alexander Wolff

This week's issue features the first installment of a four-part
series on the state of high school athletics in America. To look
into the increasing specialization in the high school ranks and
the subsequent decline of the multisport athlete, we called on
the starting shooting guard for the Brighton (N.Y.) High Barons
(class of '75), senior writer Alex Wolff. Like many of today's
young athletes, Wolff stuck to his specialty when he was in
school. "I was a one-sport athlete before it became all the
rage," he says. But unlike the hoopsters of today, he didn't play
organized ball year-round; there were no summer camps, no AAU
tournaments. "I would play hoops informally in the summer," says
Wolff. "In the old days about all you could do was show up and
try to hold the court. We were very much on our own." (His time
on the playground was well-spent; Wolff wrote the classic
playground treatise The In-Your-Face Basketball Bookwhile a
student at Princeton.) After covering college basketball for SI
for 22 years, he is familiar with the world of student-athletes.
Still, Wolff did learn something by delving deeply into this
project. "I was surprised at the comfort level people have with
how serious and specialized high school sports has become," he
says. "I thought there would be more gnashing of the teeth."

Lynn Johnson

Photographer Lynn Johnson (right, with players from Perry High in
Pittsburgh) is also no stranger to high school sports. At
Winchester Thurston School (class of '71) in Pittsburgh she
played basketball and field hockey. When it comes to
photographing athletes, Johnson searches for a truth beyond the
games and the glory. "I don't look at the athlete first," she
says. "I look at the person." Wolff says Johnson never fails to
do her homework. "She's terrifically conscientious about getting
inside a story before snapping a single shutter," he says. "She
wants to know how I'm conceiving a story, and that informs how
she takes pictures." Her approach has brought her much success.
Johnson's work for SI swept first and second place in the sports
feature category of last year's National Press Photographers
Association awards.

Albert Chen

For reporter Albert Chen, writing sidebars on four-sport athlete
Carolyn Rauen and basketball burnout Stefanie Schilling hit close
to home. At Howard High (class of '96) in Columbia, Md., the
tennis team was only one of his many extracurricular activities.
But Chen says he and many teammates didn't consider success in
sports to be as crucial as some of today's athletes do. "We
played, and we were very serious about it, but we didn't
necessarily view it as a stepping-stone to something greater," he
says. "We saw it for what it was--a positive experience we could
take with us."