By Mason Pendleton
If you’re a freshman, you’ve probably heard “make the best out of high school” just a few times. In a way, they’re right; so many freshman join extracurriculars, or rejoin from middle school. However, middle school sports and high school sports bring a different mindset to the field that some freshman aren’t prepared for. This begs the question: Are high school sports really any different than middle school?
Since a majority of players are young adults, they’re expected to adjust to their schedules and balance work and their respective sports. Strong commitment and determination to the important responsibilities of an athlete make for a good player and a good team. Coach Crystal Morse of the Whiteland Girls Golf team has been coaching teenagers for three years, and has been a PGA (Professional Golf Association) Professional since 2009. Her team practices almost every night before big matches.
“In high school, we practice more and play in quite a few more matches, so players need to learn how to balance their golf, school and possibly work schedule,” Morse said.
Practice hours may be around the same, but matches are longer and oftentimes games will retreat well into the night. In middle school, games are usually shorter, but in high school they’re expected to play close to professionals. For example, in middle school golfers only play 9 holes, but in high school they play the whole course. Or in football, the 4 quarters are around 12 minutes in length for a typical game for a younger student, but in high school it’s the full 15 minutes expected from professionals.
Julianne Witherington, a soccer player, explained the main difference she notices.
“They push me a lot more now,” Witherington said. “I think it’s because we are at a higher level now.”
High school coaches need to push their team in order to achieve their goals. Athletes are expected to do more, play harder, and run faster at the high school level.
Being surrounded by upperclassman can also be a tad intimidating no matter the sport, just like in school itself. Upperclassmen often set the tone and support younger athletes as they transition to a higher level of play.
This influence can affect many players whether they have just started or have been playing the sport for years.
Dakota Scott, a football player, believes his team is a great influence in his life.
“The high school team is strict, but helpful if you need help,” Scott said “…they are there to help you no matter what.”
Not every coach will be a full drill sergeant on the field. They are ready and willing to teach the next generation of athletes how to improve.
An environment with only negative encouragement doesn’t make a good team and can even damage how one plays. Support from teammates and leaders is essential for any team striving for a successful season.
“Everyone is supportive and encouraging, which creates a great team environment,” Morse remarked. “…I think everyone needs encouragement, just in different ways.”
Freshman today can also look forward to being upperclassman tomorrow. For many, the upperclassman stand as leaders showing the integrity and grace expected from the Whiteland sports teams. But being a freshman does come with benefits. Learning and growing with upperclassmen is a sometimes humbling and wonderful way to work into high school.
“I actually think freshmen may have an advantage because they haven’t dealt with all the distractions that can come with high school yet,” Morse said. “I’m proud of my experienced players; they are being great teammates,” Morse said.
Many high school freshman look forward to their high school year being fun and inviting; they can’t wait to be an upperclassman who is ready to help the new students adjust to their next phase in life no matter the time of the year. This can also be seen heavily in sports teams, where teamwork and leadership is more prevalent.
“I will love to help all the freshmen while I’m an upperclassman because I’ll have experience and make sure they do everything right,” Scott said.
High school sports are a thrilling and important part of any teenager’s life.
Sports create the environment of hardworking individuals working together to achieve the same goal, a skill used for the rest of one’s life.