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Rising junior Scott Dochat competes in the hammer throw at the Big 5 track meet in Apr. 2022.

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

For most athletes, being able to play one sport at an NCAA Division I level takes years of training and commitment. To compete in two, balancing completely separate seasons and training regimens, takes a whole new level. Nevertheless, for a pair of Quakers — rising junior Scott Dochat and rising sophomore Gavin Griswold — it's all worth it. 

Dochat is a defensive lineman on the football team, and competes primarily in the hammer throw with track and field, where he competed in the NCAA Regionals a few months ago. Griswold spent his fall with the sprint football team, tallying 41 tackles as a linebacker, before shifting his attention to lacrosse for the spring season. 

Both athletes originally intended to don the Red and Blue for just one team.

Dochat was initially recruited to Penn for track: he had received interest from other schools, including Brown, Stanford, and UVA, but COVID-19-related travel difficulties made Penn one of the only schools he could visit. But once he came to West Philadelphia, Penn "just seemed like the right fit," he said. Following his senior season of football — which was played in the spring due to the pandemic — he chose to pursue that sport collegiately as well. 

"It got to the point where I just didn't want to give it up," Dochat said. "So I reached out to [Defensive Coordinator Bob] Benson, and he told me I could come and walk onto the football team."

Griswold initially wanted to play lacrosse in college. While he had been a linebacker in high school, he believed his size made the prospect of playing D-I football unrealistic. But once he found out about sprint football — which Penn is still one of less than a dozen schools to offer — he was hooked. 

After deciding to focus on the gridiron, Griswold admitted that he had somewhat abandoned his lacrosse aspirations. However, last year, he decided to email lacrosse coach Mike Murphy to explore the possibility of walking onto the team in the spring. After a few tryouts, Griswold made the roster, and spent the season practicing and competing with the lacrosse team. 

To compete in multiple sports in college poses difficulties. The NCAA mandates a two-week dead period between when one season ends and when an athlete can join organized activities for a different team. Beyond that, athletes must face the reality that one team's offseason program must be forgone in order to be with another team. 

In Griswold's case, he was exempt from sprint football's weight room and spring practice responsibilities because of his commitment to lacrosse, according to sprint football coach Jerry McConnell. But McConnell also stated that of the few team events that he wanted the whole team to participate in, Griswold was there.

While competing in every sport at a high level requires a strength, speed, and power, different sports emphasize different muscle groups and skills, which dual-sport athletes must learn to manage. 

For example, in the hammer throw, lower body strength is key, with upper body being secondary, according to assistant coach for throws Fletcher Brooks. But in Dochat's case, "Because he's a football kid and I know that come the fall he's going to have to push three hundred pounders off of him, I do tend to give him a little bit more upper-body [exercise] that I traditionally do a hammer thrower," Brooks said. Beyond that, he acknowledged that the fall offseason is a crucial time to improve form and get in practice reps of throwing. 

But there are benefits to the cross-training mandated by competing in two sports. Griswold noted that both football and lacrosse focus plenty of training on running and lifting, so there is a certain amount of balance between two sports. 

Murphy echoed some of those sentiments, saying that Griswold playing football was not physically detrimental, and that he was in "pretty good shape" coming into the season. Furthermore, Murphy added that both sports share certain similarities, like "the physicality piece and the preparation piece with film and scouting reports and things like that."

For McConnell, this is the first time he's worked with a dual-sport athlete, but he said he was "very happy" for Griswold and noted that, "If anybody else came and said to me 'Hey, I want to play lacrosse,' I would tell them to do it."

But both Murphy and Brooks both have experience in this area. Griswold is only the latest Quaker to compete in both football and lacrosse within the same year. Many only do it for one year, including some who decide to play lacrosse their senior spring after their football careers end, but Murphy is "always open to that idea."

Brooks doesn't see multi-sport athletes as much now that he's with the Red and Blue, and he said that they are slowly becoming "a thing of the past." But in previous posts at Division III schools such as Williams College and MIT, it was more common for athletes to play two — or even three — sports. Despite many of the challenges that dual-sport athletes face in terms of performance, he still believes in them. 

"I was a football thrower in college, my brother was, [and] my sister did three sports in college," Brooks said. "So I do believe [in] having that opportunity, and if a place like the University of Pennsylvania can afford you that and you're getting the most out of both, and you're enjoying it, then why not? I've never tried to talk them out of it."

To hear the athletes themselves say it, they wouldn't have it any other way. 

"[In high school] I had put all my time into recruiting for track, and it so happened that when I came here, I was able to play football, and I'm forever grateful for that," Dochat said. 

"It was a busy year trying to balance academics, lacrosse, and sprint football, but it was a great first year with so many memories and I'm so glad I made the decision to do both," Griswold added. “It was definitely a unique college experience … but it was great [and I'm] looking forward to doing it again next year."