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No Rest for the Savage
Salmon River's 'Savage Six' had little time to prepare for basketball season, with just days between the end of volleyball and tip-off
Published: 1/22/2020 5:02:11 PM
Ashley Mayes
Staff Writer

When the weather takes a turn for the worse, when snow and sub-freezing temperatures usher athletics inside, sports fans find themselves trading Friday night lights for fluorescent gym lights, and athletes land themselves in the throes of yet another competitive season.

This cross-over from sport to sport happens in schools across the state, and often just a matter of days separate athletes from spiking volleyballs to shooting 3-pointers. 

Take teams like the Salmon River Savages in Riggins, Idaho, who played for the 1ADII 2019 Volleyball State Championship game and earned second place for the second year in a row.  The school’s girls basketball team — comprised of the same athletes — also placed second in the 2019 State Championship game. 

And for those six dedicated athletes — Jordyn Pottenger, Emily Diaz, Avery Jones, Sofie Branstetter, Lotus Harper and Alethea Chapman — as soon as the curtains closed on volleyball, basketball began the following week, leaving little time to rest and recover from a grueling state tournament run. 

“You tend to jump right into one sport after the other and there isn't a break,” said Salmon River junior Lotus Harper.

While limited recovery time between seasons presents some challenges to playing multiple sports, Diaz said there are more than enough benefits to reap.  

“Going into one sport right after the other can be challenging. But starting a sport while lacking any sort of previous exercise or training can be even more challenging,” Diaz said. “Volleyball prepares me for basketball by getting me into a schedule and routine for after school, as well as for games, but it also helps me physically. It makes the transition easier.”  

It’s not just the players who go from sport to sport. It’s the coaches, too.  

“Because volleyball and basketball have many similar movements, we do a lot of the same type of training,” said Salmon River head volleyball and girls basketball coach Paula Tucker. “My goal is to build athleticism, strength, speed, quickness, jumping ability, lateral movement and overall coordination.  The other main focus is to prevent injury so our warm-up/stretching activities are usually very similar.”  

Tucker has enjoyed a long six-year tenure at the helm of the Savages, meaning she has the upper hand of coaching many of her athletes from an early age.

“It’s important to change up training/conditioning drills to avoid boredom,” Tucker said. “Conditioning is easy. However, warm-up and stretching for both sports is much the same so it can be a challenge to keep it fresh.”

While some athletes play multiple sports because they love the grit and grind of competition, participation in athletics is the lifeblood for programs like Salmon River. It becomes imperative for students to play, who might not otherwise, in order to keep programs running. 

According to the Idaho High School Athletic Association’s 2018-2020 enrollment numbers, SRHS listed 45.5 students (an average of the previous two school years, including out-of-state, home-schooled and alternative students).

SRHS currently houses about 38 students, and more than half participate in one or more sports. And while more than 50% may seem impressive, the small pool of students dedicated to athletics means every year there is a lingering danger of the Savages not fielding a team. 

SRHS girls basketball program saw that harsh reality between 2012 and 2013. 

Harper, Diaz and others on the team all realize the importance of being multi-sport athletes to keep the programs going. SRHS currently has six players, all of whom played volleyball in the fall.  

“If you aren’t a multi-sport athlete, then there won’t be a team,” Harper said.

Pottenger said while it's an honor to compete for the Savages in both basketball and volleyball, the pressures of hitting the court almost year-round can take its toll.   

“Attending a small school that is very passionate about sports also means that there is a lot of pressure on the student-athletes to play more than one sport, because of the limited amount of people in the school,” Pottenger said. “For most small schools, like in our school, a majority of the student-athletes play more than one sport so that they can at least have enough players for a team, even if that sport isn’t their favorite.”

Salmon River's "Savage Six" take on Garden Valley in a boys and girls doubleheader 6 p.m. Thursday. Watch the game live from anywhere by following this link. 



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