Frosh. Tyliea Bethke steps into the court and returns her opponent’s shot. The ball comes flying back towards her and Bethke rips a backhand into the far right corner to end the game, set, and match. She quickly approaches the net to shake hands with her opponent. Instead of rushing to congratulate her, Bethke’s team claps and cheers from the sidelines. Instead of running over to her team, Bethke runs to her car. Instead of going home and doing homework tonight, Bethke is starting in a varsity soccer game. Bethke arrives at her soccer game just in time: she frantically changed in the car on the way there. She runs out onto the field, high fives her teammates, and starts the game.
This is not normal. Bethke is most likely the first freshman in WO history to be a key performer on two cut varsity sports in the same season.
The idea to play two sports arose when Bethke could not decide which sport to play: “I decided to play both because I liked both of them equally, and I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to play because I didn’t want to give either up,” Bethke said. Faced with a tough decision, she talked with Tennis Coach Peter Schwallier who brought up the idea of playing both sports. At this point, Bethke expected to make the Freshman soccer team or possibly the Junior Varsity team; the possibility of her making the Varsity soccer team was not even on her mind. When Schwallier brought up the idea of playing both soccer and tennis, Bethke jumped on the idea. “I talked to both coaches and they were very open to it,” Bethke said.
After she found out that she could do both, Bethke tried out for the Varsity tennis team and the Junior Varsity soccer team. A couple days into tryouts, Bethke was pulled up to Varsity soccer tryouts which was not a surprise to her brother Travis Bethke: “I knew Tyliea would make the Varsity soccer team. She’s really good, and it was not a surprise to me that she made varsity in both sports,” Travis said.
The tennis team was ecstatic to gain a player who would greatly help their lineup, but the soccer team was a little skeptical of Tyliea: “At first I was a little concerned because I wasn’t sure how her schedule would work out, and I had never seen her play, so I didn’t know how good she was,” Varsity Soccer Captain Addi Panse said, “Most of the team felt the same way, but we were reassured when the coaches got together and made a special schedule for her.”
That schedule consists of a rigorous amount of both tennis and soccer. Lucky for Tyliea, most of her soccer games and tennis matches are on different days or at very different times. Unlucky for Tyliea, this means that she is out of practice a lot for another sport’s game or match. The days that she does not have a soccer game or a tennis match, Tyliea generally splits her time between the two sports: “My schedule is extremely busy and exhausting. I have morning and weekend practices for soccer and then lots of tennis matches and soccer games during the week. On the days that I don’t have a game or match, I split practices half and half,” Tyliea said.
All that work pays off, though. Tyliea is a huge asset to both teams and their success: “Ty is a great addition to our back line. This year we didn’t have that many defenders besides myself and one or two others. There weren’t a lot of people so coach tried Ty back with us. This is one of her first times playing defense, but she has really stepped up and has been playing well,” Panse said. Her contributions to the tennis team have not gone unnoticed, either: “We are so lucky to have Tyliea as a part of our team. She has been an amazing addition and her athleticism and work ethic really shows through her playing. She is also a very outgoing and funny person which makes being around her even more enjoyable,” Soph. Kacey Westenbroek said.
Though playing two varsity sports is admittedly a ton of work, Tyliea is happy that she decided to do both: “The best part about playing two sports at once is being able to have a really close group of girls surrounding me while I play both. It’s really nice knowing that they want to be there and understand what I’m doing when I’m not there. I love both because I love the sports and I love the people,” Tyliea said.
The next Girl’s Varsity soccer game is at 7:15 against Hudsonville on May 24. The next Varsity tennis event is State at Midland on June 2.