Crossing the field

By Peter Natov
Published: September 2010

There is no doubt that there exist immense differences between level and competition of middle school sports compared with that of the high school level.
As incoming freshmen participate in their respective sports, they come to see that they must make necessary changes to compete at the new level. In middle school, many athletes find that participating on sports team is mostly about enjoyment and do not understand what a full commitment to a high school team is like.
Senior Alex Foner, a current member of the Boys’ Varsity Soccer team, was unsure about the transition from the middle school to the high school level in his early days at South. “I really didn’t do much to prepare, Foner said. “I was trying out for the Soccer team in the fall, so I did a little bit of training, but nothing major.
The transition from middle school to high school, however, does not only involve a dramatic change in the level of competitiveness, it also involves a change in attitude. When asked about how athletes have to adjust their attitudes in the transition, Athletic Director Scott Perrin believes that it is crucial for incoming freshmen to adjust quickly.
“When you come to high school, athletics take on a whole new meaning, Perrin said. “Middle school athletics and our youth programs don’t do the best job in preparing kids for what a Varsity for Junior Varsity experience is like.
Sophomore Aaron Weinstein, a member of the Boys’ Varsity Football team, found that the change in competitiveness from the middle school to high school level was profound.
“It’s just that the competitiveness is a whole different thing, he said. “Middle school is laid back, relaxed, and then when you get to the high school level, it’s all ‘Ëœyou want to win; you need to win,’ and it’s just a whole different competitive attitude and mentality.
A member of the Girls’ Varsity Softball team, Junior Andrea Epstein believes that one of the reasons that middle school is so different is because of the large range of skill levels, so the team is not able to focus on improving the top performers.
Due to the wide range of skill levels, the freshman team is vital to an athlete’s process of getting used to the higher level of physical play. “Kids are faster, stronger, bigger, [hit harder], and kids put in a lot more effort than in middle school, Freshman Football player Kevin Dober said.
Adjusting to the new level of competitiveness and commitment is not a change that an athlete tackles alone. Coaches aid their players in this adjustment via freshmen and Junior Varsity squads.
“The Freshman team is really helpful, Dober said. “I think freshman year it is definitely hardest to learn the program and how stuff works, because kids are coming from different [middle schools]. On these teams, incoming freshmen have the opportunity to adjust their attitudes and understand the commitment necessary for playing for South.
“Participating in a freshmen sport like football actually helps you transition a lot, especially in the preseason, so it kind of does a lot of the transitioning for you, Weinstein said. “Throughout the season, it gets progressively more difficult. The preseason really helped the adjustment process.
Foner found that the first few weeks in an athlete’s freshman career are integral in one’s ability to transition from the middle school to the high school level.
“The Freshmen and [Junior Varsity] teams are preparing kids for Varsity, and many coaches understand that this is many kids’ first experience at the high school level, so I was able to ease into the system, he said.
The adjustment process, however, comes much easier for some compared to others. “They work hard, but some of them just get it easier because they have [played the sport] for a longer time [than other kids], freshman, and Volleyball player, Nika Varpahovsky said.
In the first few weeks or months when freshmen come to understand what high school is like, both in the classroom and on the field, they encounter many difficulties to which they must adjust.
Although some incoming freshmen are content with playing at the freshmen level, and many are grateful to play at the Junior Varsity level, a few are prepared to assist a Varsity team with their abilities right away.
“We have had freshmen who come in and play Varsity, Perrin said. “There are kids who are capable of making the transition immediately. And that’s due to their mental make-up and their physical ability, but they’re few and far between.

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