A “fresh” experience on varsity athletics

Sam Keimweiss and Jack Crovitz

Many of the freshmen who earned their positions on varsity teams this fall season found that they eventually became comfortable on the team, despite insecurity at the beginning of the season, and made friendships that will help them throughout their high school careers.
While freshmen have no prior experience on a varsity teams, many of their teammates already knew each other from previous seasons.
“I was intimidated,” Zoe Swift (9) said. “I felt like an outsider.” Swift played on Girls’ Varsity Volleyball.
For freshman, it is often challenging to keep up with the more intense members of the team, Natalie Sweet (9), one of the freshman from Girls Varsity Cross Country, said, but the support of her teammates helps them to navigate the struggles.
Coaches approach placing freshmen on varsity teams carefully, especially if there is a junior varsity team, Girls’ Varsity Field Hockey Coach Caroline Surhoff said.
“There’s definitely a big jump in the level of play between the Middle Division and varsity. I usually will not take a freshmen unless I know that that person will either start or be a major contributor to the season,” Surhoff said.
This year, Abigail Morse (9) started for the field hockey Lions. She feels that Surhoff “paid attention to me more because I was new and she wanted to see how I was progressing, ” she said.
While it is often harder for freshmen to make varsity teams, once they are on, their experience is usually similar to that of other players.
Varsity Water Polo Coach Michael Duffy takes the same approach to coaching freshmen as he does seniors or other returning athletes. However, he does prioritize communication and mutual understanding with freshmen. Duffy believes that it is extremely important for a freshman athlete to “feel comfortable communicating with the coach if they have any questions,” he said.
Upperclassmen often become very supportive of the underclassmen on their team. Swift become more comfortable and found her place on the team, as the other players gave her more tips that would help her improve her skills, she said.
“The upperclassmen built me up a lot of the time,” Lyndon Gay (9) said. Gay played on Boys’ Varsity Football.
“Everyone was super nice on the team, and they all wanted the freshmen to feel comfortable,” Talia Winiarsky (9), a runner from the Girls’ Varsity Cross Country team, said.
The Girls’- Varsity Cross Country team felt like a family to her, Sweet said. “It’s really nice to be part of such a welcoming team,” she said.
Many freshmen saw their experience on varsity teams as helpful in integrating themselves into high school life and making new friends. “They told us what we needed to know to start high school well and get on track,” Winiarsky said.
The freshman met their teammates for the first time during preseason. “It was a great way to make friends before I knew anyone at school.”
“I formed a lot of relationships that will last through high school. Now I’m friends with a lot of my teammates,” Swift said.
Girls’ Varsity Tennis held its own “Teamsgiving,” which had a positive effect on Sabrina Freidus (9), she said.
“I have never seen more desserts for 13 girls in my life,” Freidus said, describing the “Teamsgiving” party. The night continued with “Pitch Perfect” accompanied by singing, laughing, and crying, she said. Freidus felt comfortable and welcomed by her teammates, she said.
Another challenge for some freshmen on varsity teams was balancing schoolwork and athletics. When she first started on the team, Swift was still getting her bearings with the school and the workload, she said.
Swift is not the only one who considered the balancing of schoolwork and athletics to be a challenge. Morse “didn’t know which teachers liked to give homework and how the testing worked. [She] got home later and had to figure that out,” she said.
Morse found that while her time on the team taught her skills in organization and schoolwork, she was always rushed. “I probably could have spent more time on homework if I had more time after school,” Morse said.
While there was a learning curve, there were also perks to being on a varsity team. There was also a pride factor that comes with being on a varsity team, especially as a freshman. “It felt great. There’s a certain level of respect you earn by being on varsity,” Gay said.