Freshmen play up to their strengths in sports


Art by Bernadette Mercurio

“The cheers ring out, one mighty shout, for Viator’s varsity.”
The conclusion of the fight song echoes the dream of every passionate freshman athlete—making varsity. However, the opportunity to play up is rare, and the demands of a competitive high school varsity team, school work and managing a social life is no easy task, especially for a freshman. In addition to preparing for their first year in high school, freshmen must adapt to the new practice schedules of their sports, which is more challenging for varsity athletes.
Some freshmen feel prepared for the vigorous practice schedule of varsity athletics. Readiness can be attributed to the amount of time spent training and managing one’s time in the off-season.
“During the summer, I had practice once or twice a day for about one to two hours each as well as two meets a week,” said freshman Ava Walton, who swims on the varsity girls team.
Many young athletes find it hard to gauge their talent when comparing themselves to others, especially when they are joining a new team. Many freshmen athletes will underestimate their own talents, even when others do not.
“I didn’t really have any expectations of making it to varsity,” said Walton. “But I thought I probably would just based on what people told me.”
For freshmen who desire to play up on varsity, a positive outlook can support that dream.  Good support systems help athletes feel more confident, and enforce the idea that mistakes will happen by athletes in sports.  It is all a part of the game.
“I didn’t really expect to make varsity, but my sibling said that I would,” said freshman varsity swimmer Leah Collins. “[He gave] me more hope that [helped] me believe I would make varsity.”
A factor many overlook is the mental toll it can take on an athlete.  Acceptance by upperclassmen, the notion of competing against more experienced athletes, and the performance expectations can become a stressful experience. However, a common focus can lower that pressure.
“If the culture of the team is accepting and focused on the sport, then I think [stress] goes away because everyone has the same goals to play well and win,” said freshman volleyball coach and science teacher Mrs. Gina Horne.
The opportunity to compete at the varsity level allows freshmen to improve at the sport they love. Most freshmen support the ability to play up on varsity and encourage other first-year varsity athletes to seize the opportunity.
“Just try the best you can,” said Walton. “You are on varsity for a reason, so just play your best, and don’t worry if you aren’t or think you aren’t as good as the upperclassmen.”
Freshmen who not only want to play on varsity, but want to be a part of the team must put forth a considerable effort.
“Always go to practices to show that you care, but don’t overwork yourself,” said Collins.
Freshmen find that they can grow more comfortable on the team of upperclassmen by engaging in team activities. Team bonding in practice is important; however, getting to know each other outside of practice and all things school, allows a team to truly grow.
“I participate in all of the activities that the team has,” said Walton. “I go to the pasta parties and all of the meets.”
The opportunity to compete at the varsity level allows a freshman to improve at the sport they love. However, they must enter the season with a solid foundation in the sport. Another struggle freshmen may face when finally making varsity is playing time.
“It comes down to their skill level, there are people who are just that good coming in,” said Mrs. Horne. “If they are going to get playing time, I think that they should play varsity. If they are not going to get playing time, I personally think coaches should explore other options for their players.”
While teams want to have fun and build connections, a main goal is to succeed in the season.
“I think that if they are going to help you win, they should be there,” said Mrs. Horne.
It is important for athletes to take care of themselves, both mentally and physically. The demands that are placed upon student athletes are unique and can take time to adapt to. Freshmen playing on varsity teams can be extremely beneficial in terms of new talent and different playing styles. Each individual player brings different aspects of their game to the team, and then they all come together to compete.