In his spare time, Marcus Crawford is researching potential college destinations.

Specifically, Crawford is looking intently at Tennessee State University. Why? Because Crawford wants to study both aviation mechanics and business management.

Spare time, of course, is a bit of a relative term for the Memphis Hamilton standout. He’s coming off a 2018-19 junior year in which he was a member of the baseball, basketball, cross country, football and tennis teams for the Wildcats.

Crawford arrives to school each day before 7 a.m. and usually is home by about 6:30 p.m.

“My coach, William Smith, he had inspired me to play more than one sport,” Crawford said. “My nickname is ‘Chill,’ and he said, ‘Chill, do you want to be an athlete, play more than one sport and really challenge yourself?’ So I started playing different sports to get my body right and make sure everything was good.”

Per TSSAA data, some 36 percent of Hamilton student-athletes played multiple sports last year --- nearly a full 10 percentage points more than the remainder of the state of Tennessee, which saw 22,172 student-athletes of more than 83,400 statewide register as multi-sport participants.

Marcus Crawford and William Smith

Marcus Crawford and William Smith

Coach Smith wears nearly as many hats at Hamilton High School as Crawford does uniforms. He is the school’s athletics director, boys’ basketball coach and helms the boys’ and girls’ cross country programs.

A former college basketball player for the University of Colorado, Smith is instilling in Hamilton’s students the benefits of a well-rounded high school experience.

“We don’t use athletics as being only extracurricular for growth or athleticism,” Smith said. “We use it to help kids, some who may not be athletic, to help them grow as a person. Some kids actually don’t have a home life, just need to stay busy or maybe they have A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder) or some type of deficiency. Sometimes athletes’ parents just need them to learn discipline. So it’s not only athletics and winning.

“I did everything from baseball to hockey to bumper pool, being at the swimming pool to golf, everything.”

More importantly, Smith’s connections and experiences are now vehicles for Hamilton’s student-athletes to gain unique life experiences and perspectives.

“You really don’t understand it sometimes, but sports does so much for people and when you’ve worked so hard, it can continue to help you with other ventures,” Smith said. “The people you meet is amazing. It would be crazy if I went down the entire list, some people I talk to daily, weekly, monthly, just from sports.

Doing multiple sports ... is teaching them what the world is today. We are trying to create multifaceted people and see the chance to excel in all of them.

“Kids, they have to know the why and the what. They have to see it. They can’t read about it. We have people come talk to them; we do more mental work than physical. We try to let them see who’s done it, where they’re from, their background and kind of live in the moment and spend time with them. Just touching a few more lives.”

Smith’s contacts to speak to his student-athletes in recent years include former NBA stars Chauncey Billups, an old college teammate, and Carmelo Anthony; additionally, the founders of the Crocs shoe company as well as Smith’s old college classmate, whose family were among the original founders of the Proctor & Gamble Co.

“Just to have them meet others that have done different things, see it, feel it and be part of it,” Smith said of the benefits and his drive to expose the students to all facets of life. “What it does, too, it teaches them they have to be accountable and just stay on point. There’s not room for any let-up; Corporate America nowadays, people are working multiple jobs, or one job and lots of hours.

“Doing multiple sports, it doesn’t allow time to slack off, time to breathe. It is teaching them what the world is today. We are trying to create multifaceted people and see the chance to excel in all of them.”

Crawford’s finding his five-sport routine grows his skills away from the competitive environments.

“It’s shown me how to be a better leader, on the court and off the court and to my teammates,” he said. “It helps me to inspire other kids, to make them get going too. Hopefully to encourage them like, ‘Marcus Crawford did play all these sports, I have a chance to do that too.’”

Crawford admits the rigorous schedule carries with it plenty of fatigue. But it's also Crawford’s own future at stake --- as well as that as the kids in the community already looking up to him.

“I’m extremely tired when I get home, but it will pay off,” Crawford said. “I’ve been doing research on TSU, their GPAs and ACTs. I want to go to TSU for basketball, aircraft mechanics and get my business license too.

“It takes a lot of dedication and discipline [to play so many sports]. And you have to be able to take a whole lot of criticism. But it helps me straighten up, really listen to the teacher, and it makes me want to go harder.

“I really hope it helps the younger kids, really, a lot. A whole lot.”

It’s an example that just might help some adults as well.