DAILY JOURNAL SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
As Kimberly Skeel tells the story, she and her husband, Dan, were only indirectly involved in the start of son Tanner’s multifaceted athletic career.
The beginning came when she realized that there were no sports teams for 3-year-olds to play on. The extremely active youngster was, in her words, “driving me crazy” with his constant search for physical activity, so she enrolled him in ice skating class.
Before long, ice hockey followed and then basketball, football, baseball and, at one time or another, seemingly anything involving a ball or competition.
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Now 18 and a senior, Skeel plays three sports at a high level.
He may be best known as the starting quarterback for the past two seasons at Greenwood Community High School. He also is the leading the scorer for the South Stars high school hockey team, a gathering of players from area schools in a state that doesn’t sanction high school hockey. He is also a standout baseball player at Greenwood and was recruited to play catcher at Wabash College next year.
As fits this pattern, Skeel won’t just play baseball in college but will do double-duty with the Wabash football program.
His parents both say his best sport is hockey and he played at a higher tier of junior level hockey before the demands of multiple team schedules led to his playing on a local high school-age team.
In each sport, Skeel also plays out-of-season with either travel club teams or in offseason conditioning programs. Add to that his standout work in the classroom, occasional rounds of golf with his grandfather and even participation in the school intramural basketball league, and you get a taste of just how ceaselessly active this young man is.
Dan and Kimberly Skeel have driven him around Greenwood and central Indiana for practices and games over the years. But both see his involvement in athletics as an enriching factor in his life.
“Athletics have been good for his character development. He’s made a lot of friendships. He’s developed discipline, good work habits. It’s been very positive,” Dan Skeel said.
He began playing baseball in the Greenwood Little League by age 5. His football career started at age 7 with the Greenwood Bantam Football League. Multiple sports and multiple leagues required some intricate logistics on the part of his parents.
“A lot of days we’d get him up, get him after school and get his homework done. Depending on what sport he was playing at the time, we might take him up to Fishers for practice or to football or basketball or baseball, and sometimes more than one before getting him home, getting something to eat and to bed,” Dan Skeel said.
In the case of ice hockey, Tanner Skeel was playing with a highly competitive club team in tournaments as far away as Ontario, Chicago and Michigan. He recalls scoring the game-tying goal in the final of an international tournament in Canada at age 7. He started playing at a higher tier of junior hockey in ninth grade with the Indianapolis Junior Ice, which involved a greater time commitment and more travel.
The family kept active communication with his coaches to help navigate potential schedule conflicts. He played quarterback on the middle school and freshman football teams while playing on the travel hockey teams. He was ready to do the same for his sophomore year but surprisingly was cut after the annual tryouts, despite regularly scoring goals during preseason scrimmages.
Kimberly Skeel points out that on the same day he learned he was cut, her son was selected by USA Hockey for an identification camp, which was part of the process to choose youth national teams for international tournaments.
She said the family sometimes faced pressure to have her son focus on a single sport but is glad they didn’t.
“We ran into people all the time saying, ‘Pick one sport,’ but Tanner could never pick just one,” she said.
Tanner Skeel did make one adjustment for his senior year, delaying the start of his hockey season until football season was over.
“Last year I played both at the same time. I would play a football game on Friday. I didn’t want to break my arm or something and have to tell my football teammates I couldn’t play when I was a captain and a senior,” he said.
But when football ended the skates went back on.
“I wanted so bad to get back out there,” he said. “It was hard to just watch.”
With all his playing, Tanner Skeel still finds a little time to watch games, too. He and his dad catch all the Colts home games in person and travel to Cincinnati once a year to watch his Cardinals play his dad’s favorite, the Reds. His dad coached him in youth baseball and now coaches on the summer travel team from which Wabash recruited him.
Playing two sports in college will be a challenge, Tanner Skeel acknowledged, especially at a tough academic school like Wabash, but he said both the football and baseball coaches have expressed a willingness to work with him in terms of scheduling.
It may be that they recognize, as his parents did when he was young, that some people are just wired to keep going.
“He was always busy with something,” Dan Skeel said. “If there was a weekend off he was driving us nuts. He’d be out in the garage shooting pucks or something.”
It also might be that the coaches have noticed Tanner Skeel excels at sport, even when he is carrying a very crowded schedule. In other words, don’t bet against him succeeding at the next level. It’s just a shame Wabash doesn’t have a college hockey team.