MURRAY — It is hard to imagine either Mindy Schvaneveldt or Keshia Catten as ferocious competitors.

But according to softball, volleyball, tennis and basketball coaches, that's exactly what they are.

The girls are unique for many reasons, but first and foremost is that in an age of specializations and the proliferation of club teams and accelerated leagues, these girls just want to have fun.

Both are starters on the defending 4A state championship softball team, and Catten won a state title in doubles tennis — the first ever for the Spartan women's tennis team — while Schvaneveldt was smashing the volleyball as the team's starting outside hitter.

Both started for the region 6 champion basketball team during the winter, and now they're back on the softball field for the top-ranked Spartans.

Between them, the seniors own enough hardware to stretch from centerfield to home plate, but they seem so self-effacing and unaffected by their success. They are consummate team players.

The duo grew up playing sports with their parents. Catten played tennis with her mom and basketball with her dad. Mindy watched her mom play recreational volleyball and softball and, like Catten, also learned to shoot hoops with her dad.

"We've just always played sports all year round," said Schvaneveldt, who said she gets a lot of incredulous looks when she mentions she's an athlete. "They always say, 'Do you play?' They're surprised when I say I start."

Neither girl looks the part they play for the Spartans athletic teams. Schvaneveldt is often mistaken for a cheerleader, while Catten's near 4.0 grades have her in the book-worm category. Both are shy and respectful around adults but typical silly teenage girls around their teammates and friends.

"Playing three sports has made them very hard working," said basketball coach Lisa White. "They know what it takes to be a good athlete, and they'll do whatever you need them to do to be successful."

She said playing a different sport every few months has helped the naturally athletic teens to develop into more "well-rounded" young women.

"The multi-sport athlete is just a different kid," White said. "Each sport has helped them develop in different ways."

The girls say playing three sports helps them avoid burn-out.

"I think I would get sick of playing just one sport," Catten said. "I need variety."

Adds Schvaneveldt, "It's more exciting to play three sports. Toward the end of volleyball I start getting excited for basketball. Toward the end of basketball, I start getting excited for softball."

The transitions between sports can take a few weeks, but the girls said that just makes them work harder at the beginning of each season. Each has her favorite. Catten hopes to play college basketball, while Schvaneveldt said she'd love to play volleyball but will likely play softball because there is more opportunity for her there.

The parents of both girls have not only supported them in their multiple-sports careers, but they've encouraged them.

"I think my mom would be disappointed if I quit any of them," said Schvaneveldt with a smile. Catten nods in agreement.

Catten's mom said it may be her own hunger that fed her young daughter's buffet-style athletic choices.

"I lived in the day and age where there was really nothing in the way of sports for us," said Jackie Catten. "Maybe that's why she's been so involved in so many sports is because I was denied that. It is definitely part of why I love her doing so many sports. I just enjoy, enjoy, enjoy it. I think we both always look forward to the next sports season, even though basketball is her true love."

Sue Schvaneveldt said her two daughters not only tagged along when she played softball or volleyball, but she signed them up for both sports and dance classes when they were young.

"I wanted them to experience it all," she said. "They chose sports, which surprised me because they're both so petite, but it's what they enjoy."

The advice both girls received from her parents was similar. First, once you make a commitment to a team, you have to keep it; and, second, you can never quit because of a coach or a teammate.

"When it's not fun anymore," said Sue Schvaneveldt, "then you can give it up. But Mindy just enjoys all of her sports."

Adds, Jackie Catten, "I think playing all three sports has helped Keshia both mentally and physically."


E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com