In many ways, soccer season never ends for West York's Shyanne Kimbrough.

During the spring, the junior stars for the Bulldogs girls' team, a jet-quick forward and the YAIAA's top scoring threat. But that's only a small cross-section of the time Kimbrough commits to her sport.

In the summer and fall months, Kimbrough plays for the Pennsylvania Classics, a high-level club team based in Lancaster County. Her weekends are spent trekking from tournament to tournament -- some as far off as Las Vegas and Orlando.

In the winter, Kimbrough competes in indoor leagues.

Then comes scholastic soccer in the spring, and the cycle begins all over again.

Still, when asked about her soccer-saturated schedule, Kimbrough shrugged.

West York’s Shyanne Kimbrough, right,  has a scholarship lined up with Jacksonville State. Kimbrough, a junior, leads a Bulldogs team into this
West York's Shyanne Kimbrough, right, has a scholarship lined up with Jacksonville State. Kimbrough, a junior, leads a Bulldogs team into this season gaining experience. (GAMETIMEPA -- FILE)

"I think it's normal," she said. "If you play a club sport, you know you're going to be traveling. You have to give up a lot of stuff."

Indeed, Kimbrough is hardly the exception. As specialization has increased in youth athletics over the last decade or so, club sports have increased in size and scope. The biggest events can generate considerable financial footprints -- an AAU girls' basketball tournament coming to York County in July is expected to have an economic impact of $4.1 million -- and attract hordes of college recruiters.

For girls especially, there are more chances than ever to gain exposure and top-level experience through club programs. More of the area's female athletes are playing college sports -- several at the Division I level -- than ever before.

Some high school coaches worry about the negative consequences of specialization and overuse. And yet, there's little doubt that the level of play and exposure for girls' athletics is at an all-time high.

"Every year I'm starting to see two or three girls on my squad that are entertaining opportunities to play at the next level," Dallastown girls' soccer coach Barry Barbush said. "I think what the phenomenon is, it's not necessarily during high school sports that they're getting noticed, but it's their club team that's getting that exposure."

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How much has the landscape of girls' sports changed over the last two decades?

Ask Chrissy Crumling. When she was a student at Eastern York in the mid-1990s, she played soccer with the boys' team because the school had no girls' program.

Crumling later played women's soccer at Lebanon Valley College and has coached the Eastern York girls' team since its inception in 2000. Still, she remembers having to drive an hour or more just to attend an AAU team tryout.

"I didn't really have an opportunity (to get college attention)," Crumling said. "Now I think it's so easy to find a way to get exposed."

Still, Crumling is wary of the trend in which some girls play the same sport year-round. Several studies have indicated specialization can lead to an increase in so-called "overuse" injuries, such as stress fractures.

"I was a multi-sport athlete myself, and personally for me it was a very healthy thing," Crumling said. "I think for a majority of high school athletes, I think that's probably the best way to go."

Barbush agreed.

"I had a couple girls that played basketball and soccer, and they decided 'I just want to play soccer,'" Barbush said. "I told them, 'Think that through. Make sure you feel good about that before you say it.'"

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While soccer -- and its club culture -- is more established, girls' lacrosse continues to take root both locally and nationwide. According to the latest survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), lacrosse is the country's fastest growing girls' sport, with a participation increase of nine percent during the 2010-11 scholastic season.

Two years ago, York Catholic girls' lacrosse coach Rob Linthicum helped found the York Invaders club team, which competes in summer and fall tournaments against squads throughout the Northeast. Before that, Linthicum said, girls from the area had to travel to Lancaster or Maryland to play club lacrosse.

South Western’s Katie Wherley, left, battles with York Catholic’s Giana Lupinetti during a game last season.
South Western's Katie Wherley, left, battles with York Catholic's Giana Lupinetti during a game last season. (GAMETIMEPA -- FILE)

"Just the level of competition is so much stronger than what the girls face in York County," Linthicum said. "The kids that are playing club ball in the summer and winter largely end up being all-county or leading scorers from their respective high school teams."

Linthicum said the Invaders team he coached last year -- made up of current high school seniors -- included players from seven different YAIAA schools.

The level of lacrosse in the York-Adams area still lags behind Lancaster and suburban Philadelphia, where the sport is more established. But with the growth of club teams and stronger feeder systems, local coaches hope that gap might be closing.

"We're taking strides," Kennard-Dale girls' lacrosse coach Kelly Wetzel said. "It's just small strides."

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While concerns about specialization and overuse might persist, the recruiting advantages of a year-round club schedule are undeniable. Club and AAU tournaments are often a gathering ground for college coaches, drawn by the opportunity to observe dozens of elite teams rather than travel to a high school game and scout a single player.

Linthicum has already seen two players from his York Invaders team sign Division I letters of intent -- South Western senior Katie Wherley (La Salle) and York Catholic's Lindsay Ingram (St. Francis).

"Even three or four years ago, there was no club lacrosse teams in the area," Linthicum said. "By and large, there just weren't any opportunities."

At Dallastown, Barbush said his junior goalkeeper, Becca Austin, has already verbally committed to Coastal Carolina. (Another Wildcats player, senior Cassy Landis, will head to Siena.)

And Kimbrough? She committed to Jacksonville State in Alabama last January, more than three months before the start of her junior season.

"(The girls') recruiting is almost more competitive than the boys," said Shyanne's father, Nate Kimbrough. "At one point, she had probably 30, 40 schools that were emailing."

As for the time and travel that accompanies the year-round dedication to her sport?

"I think it's cool," Shyanne said. "Sometimes I feel like we've gone more places than some people go in their whole lifetime."; 771-2045

More spring sports previews:

Baseball: West York catalyst Toomey still thinking diamonds

Softball: York County Tech looking to take back Division IV with McLane

Boys' track and field: William Penn's Posey aiming farther

Girls' track and field: Janneh's New Oxford career almost didn't happen

Boys' lacrosse: Marsher, Norris take lead for Susquehannock

Girls' lacrosse: South Western's Szparaga determined to play

Boys' tennis: For South Western's Meyer, it's a family thing

Boys' volleyball: Gard, York Suburban have an itch to scratch

Girls' soccer: Weikert helps Gettysburg take the offensive

How does York County make net gains?