In the interest of balance, Tim Larson admits his bedroom is frequently in disarray. And his backhand is still a work in progress.
Other than that, the Bloomington Jefferson senior has been a rousing success in darn near everything he’s tried.
Larson is a three-sport athlete — soccer, basketball and tennis, his current and most successful sport — and is a team captain in all three. He’s among the top 10 singles players in Class 2A, the only one who doesn’t play tennis year-round.
He gets straight A’s with an academic schedule heavy on advanced placement classes. He’s an accomplished piano player who is teaching himself to play the guitar. On top of that, he also leads a confirmation class at his church.
“I’m always going,” he said. “I always have to be doing something.”
With all the 6-foot-3 Larson does well, there has to be an ego in play somewhere. Right?
Um, no. By all accounts, Larson is universally liked by his classmates. Friends watching a recent tennis match, which he won, were asked if there were any flaws in Larson’s game. Or his character, for that matter. The answers were bemused headshakes and quick “no” replies.
“I’ve asked him sometimes, ‘What’s it like to be you?’ ” said his mother, Lynn Larson, a teacher and tennis coach at Jefferson. “He’s such a great athlete and he’s so comfortable around people. He can talk to anyone. I tell him he’s socially gifted.”
As gifted as he is, it’s likely Larson will never be a state champion. And that’s perfectly fine with him.
Larson is one of a vanishing breed, particularly in the Twin Cities area. He’s a natural athlete who prefers to be very good in many things rather than a superstar in one. The one time he was urged to make a commitment to a sport, he promptly gave up that sport and turned his attention elsewhere.
“I played hockey until I was in fifth grade,” he said. “I was told that, if I wanted to get better, maybe I should think about giving up some of the other sports I played. So I thought about it and I gave up hockey.”
Not everything comes easy. Switching from sport to sport takes time and patience. He’s become a master at chipping away personal rust, using his natural skills to make himself valuable until his transition is smoothed over. That, he said, is the key to his success.
“I struggle to catch up for the first couple of weeks when everyone else has been playing for the previous two months or so,” Larson said. “But a lot of coaches actually enjoyed that I played three sports. They knew through the season that I was going to get better because I wasn’t playing in the offseason. They knew I had room to grow.”
Jefferson tennis coach Nick Hupton watches Larson and sees his powerful serve, big forehand and natural talents and can’t help but project how good Larson could be if he played all year, like most top players in the state.
“He’d be scary,” Hupton said. “He’s got the total package.”
But Hupton understands Larson’s desire to compete and his varied interests. “He likes other sports and that’s cool,” Hupton said.
Being a three-sport athlete at the varsity level is important to Larson. He knows the value of doing what he enjoys, even if he occasionally ponders a “what-if” scenario.
“It goes through my mind sometimes, especially when I’m playing and getting beat by someone I’m more athletic than,” he said. “But it makes it more special to be able to go out and compete with kids who are playing just one sport. There’s definitely some pride in that.”
As one would expect, Larson’s schedule is exceptionally busy. Keeping up his level of play, whether as a tennis player, a soccer defender or a basketball forward — not to mention two years as a kicker for the football team — is a time-eater. Which explains the messy room.
“I usually run home between practice, change clothes and I leave them on the floor,” he admitted. “But they’re usually cleaned up by the time I get home.”
Well, nobody’s perfect.