Sports specialization?

No need to. Tina McNamara made them all special. McNamara, who graduated in 1998, is believed to be the only New Richmond High School athlete who lettered in six different sports. And she was good in every one of them, including advancing to the state level in track and tennis and leading the Tiger girls' basketball team to the sectional level in her senior season.

McNamara played all four of her winter seasons in basketball, making the varsity team as a freshman. She teamed with Chrissy Sager to give the Tigers two of the top scorers in the Middle Border Conference, leading the Tigers to the WIAA sectional tournament as a senior. They knocked off undefeated MBC champion Durand in the regional championship game.

Her first two fall seasons were spent playing volleyball. As a junior, she tried cross-country. In her senior year, she joined the Tiger tennis team. She teamed with Allison Jerlow as the Tigers’ top doubles team and they meshed together so well that they reached the WIAA state championships.

“The year I ran cross-country, I loved it. Tennis was like a dream. I had a good partner and a good coach,” McNamara said.

In the spring, McNamara qualified for the WIAA state track meet in her freshman and sophomore seasons.

“I liked track, but I was always so scared to lose. Switching from track to softball was an easy out,” she said.

McNamara said her high school coaches took what could have been an awkward situation in changing sports and made the transitions easy for her.

“Looking back, I enjoyed all the sports so much. The coaches accepted and encouraged me,” she said. She said the coaches who had the most influence included Tiger varsity basketball coach Jim Kannel and youth coaches Tim Sager and Tom Munson.

Softball came naturally, because McNamara was an excellent Little League baseball player for several years in her youth. She also tried hockey for two years. New Richmond didn’t have girls' hockey at the time, so her parents drove her to Somerset, where she caught a ride with the families of two other girls who were playing hockey in Stillwater.

The interest in multiple sports continued for McNamara in college. She played two years of basketball and one year of tennis at UW-Stout. She gave up basketball when her studies took her on a semester abroad.

McNamara and her spouse live in Hudson and have five children. Their oldest daughter, Maggie, is 9 years old. McNamara said she finds it hard to fathom that children that young are being expected to specialize in one sport.

McNamara and her three sisters grew up on her parents’ dairy farm, which they still operate.

“I feel like I should call my parents and thank them a million times over,” she said. “Growing up on a farm was a huge advantage. Kids growing up on a farm had a totally different work ethic.”

All four sisters live close to home.

“We grew up as best friends and we still are. That’s why we wanted a big family,” she said, but said they are probably done after the fifth child, who was born six months ago.