Every year, a handful of freshmen are talented enough to make a varsity team at SHS. This practice can prove unpopular with upperclassmen who may be passed over. Coaches defend picking freshmen, believing that if the freshmen have earned their spots, there is no reason for hostility. Depending on the team, freshmen can make varsity teams ranging from rarely to occasionally. “For football it is very rare for freshmen to make the team mostly because physically you have to be at a certain developmental level to play at the varsity level. A 14- or 15- year-old is normally not at that level and able to play varsity football,” said Assistant Varsity Football and Track and Field Coach Devin Hoover. On the track and field team, “It is more frequent for freshmen to make the team if they happen to be fast enough to run varsity times and compete at varsity meets. At that point, it depends a little bit more on the individual skill more so than physical development,” added Hoover.
Although the age disparity would seemingly cause conflict, freshmen on varsity report otherwise. “Surprisingly, I wasn’t treated as badly as I thought I was going to be treated. Everyone thinks that freshmen get treated horribly and they get bossed around by upperclassmen but not once was I mistreated,” commented freshman Lauren Hendel ’15, who played for the Varsity volleyball team. “There might be an adjustment period as you get along with the upperclassmen, but I think for the most part once you make that team you’re a part of that team and you work together to try to win or meet your goals,” said James Nicholas ’15, who has been on both the Varsity golf and hockey teams. Most report receiving an overwhelmingly positive treatment from their teammates, including Emily Reed ’15. “Everyone was really sweet to me and went out of their way to make me feel welcome.”
In spite of their youth, “freshmen come with the same expectations. They work hard and they do their best and improve and we move them along and don’t treat them differently at all… we treat everyone the same,” stated Girls Lacrosse Coach Cece Berger. However, freshmen report that teammates were helpful in assisting them. “Whenever I would make a mistake, my teammates would explain what I did wrong and never got angry. Also whenever I did a drill wrong, my team would just re-explain the drill…. BecauseI was new to the team, it took me a while to learn all the plays but everyone was really patient and helped me,” said Abigail McDonald ’15, who played for the varsity basketball team. Hendel expressed the same sentiments, “My teammates and my coach gave the freshmen on my team positive attention because they knew that we were young, less mature and not as advanced as the rest of the team.”
Another problem that arises is the upperclassmen who are passed over for freshmen. “If the skill difference is really that huge then I can understand it, but I think that upperclassmen should always get priority, especially if they have shown commitment and dedication to the sport in the past,” said an athlete who was passed over by a freshman this past year and wished to remain anonymous. Many students echoed this sentiment, saying that because, many athletes put varsity team membership on their resumes, it is only fair to give older students the opportunity to play, regardless of a freshman’s ability.
Coaches have varying philosophies regarding passing over upperclassmen for freshmen. “My philosophy as a varsity coach is that I only take freshmen on a varsity team if they’re going to play 75% of the time, or more. If they’re not going to be playing 75% or more, I would leave them down to either the JV or the freshmen [teams]. But do they belong on a varsity team if they’re good enough? Absolutely,” said Softball Coach Dave Scagnelli. Berger believes that the best way to overcome this problem is to ensure fairness in the selection process and said that hostility would be unwarranted because the freshmen on the team have fairly earned their positions.
Overall, the freshmen deem their experience to have been a positive one. McDonald felt it was a great experience because she “learned so much by playing with such great players.” Livvy Meyers ’15, who runs on the varsity track and field team, agreed. “In the beginning of this year, I wasn’t on varsity, but then, as I started going to the meets more, I began to train with the varsity team and coach. Plus, it was also a great workout.” For Reed, “especially since I was on varsity during a fall sport, it helped me make a really smooth transition into high school because I formed close bonds with upperclassmen.”