Teams ask, ‘Where are freshmen?’

Strong varsity athletics have always been a tradition at Saint Viator. Five years ago, freshmen teams were the norm for all sports, tryouts were commonly cutthroat, and students flocked to numerous sports. Today, for many athletics, freshmen teams have disappeared, coaches are begging for players and students are not eagerly signing up for as many sports as previous generations of students.
Some say freshmen participation has declined over the past few years. This occurrence is common to many sports. For some sports, student athletes find that other activities lead to small rosters.
“Winter sports seem to especially face small or inconsistent rosters,” said senior wrestling captain Austin Kanyuh. “Many students choose to commit their time to the musical.”
Sports that highlight the individual, like cross country, wrestling, and swimming, have taken the most major hits.
“I think people don’t realize that the sport has such a team aspect to it and that it’s a great way to make new friends,” said senior cross country runner Meave Serb.
Student athletes are more drawn to popular team sports like volleyball, football, and lacrosse because they are influenced by the desire to socialize and play with friends. These sports are also perceived as easier by many freshmen.
Not all sports have suffered, though, with other coaches denying that there has been a decrease in freshmen participation.
“I believe we have stayed right about average when it comes to freshman involvement in sports,” said varsity boys lacrosse coach Mr. Patrick Gaeger ‘08. “Athletics is one of the main drivers for students attending Saint Viator and our size gives them the opportunity to directly impact their programs early and often.”
Some sports, like lacrosse and bowling, have even increased in participation over the past few years.
“Freshman participation has increased for lacrosse since my time here,” said Mr. Gaeger. “It’s always tough to draw kids into a sport that they have never played prior to high school. Younger kids are afraid to try something they’re not great at but as soon as they see how welcoming and encouraging our program is, they stick with it.”
While larger programs like football and lacrosse are not suffering, coaches understand that there are multiple reasons for declining numbers of student athletes.
“There are bigger issues like social media, COVID, and club sports that seem to be affecting all sports at the high school level,” said Mr. Gaeger. “There has also been a huge switch to specialization in sports, and young athletes too focused on their recruiting profile.”
For those who do join athletics in high school, they form friendships, learn life lessons, and create lasting memories. Coaches fear that many students are missing out on this opportunity.
“Students are forgetting how amazing high school athletics are and enjoying the journey they’re on with their friends,” said Mr. Gaeger. “I can promise you, there is nothing greater than high school athletics and too many times our young athletes are focused on the future and forget to live in the moment.”