- Understanding What it Takes to be a High School AthleteHere are some concepts for each incoming freshman athlete that may help make the transition easier from middle school to high school. This information was published in the Interscholastic Athletic Administration Summer 2019 magazine.
-You are probably going to get yelled at.
Even though coaching techniques and motivation strategies have drastically changed over the years, coaches are still passionate about their sports and teaching the game. There has to be an understanding on the part of the athlete that a coach elevating their voice towards you does not necessarily mean that the coach is mad at you and certainly does not mean that they don’t like you. One must get past the volume of instruction and learn to listen to the message. This tip is equally important for student-athletes and their parents because this is as likely to happen in a game as it is in the privacy of practice.
- Training is year-round.
Like it or not, long gone are the days of summers off and lengthy breaks between seasons. In order to compete at a high level, off-season workouts combined with school strength and conditioning programs are a necessity. Students and parents must understand and embrace these two facts: 1. The weight room is important. 2. You can’t just show up on the first official day of practice and expect great things to happen to you as an individual or to your team.
- Seasons are longer.
It may seem logical to most, but there are students and parents who are unaware that high school teams typically participate in more contests than junior high teams, which causes the seasons to start earlier and end later than what they have been accustomed to over the last two to three years.
- Success is important.
While winning is certainly not everything, nobody likes to lose. The success of sports programs at a school is a direct representation of that school, the community in which it resides, and a school’s fan base. Understanding that your individual or team success means something to more than just yourself and your teammates is vital to understanding why hard work is necessary.
- Success comes at a price.
This is essentially a further reminder of what was discussed about year-round training. If we believe that success is important to ourselves, the school, and community, then we must be willing to put in the work that is necessary to be successful and understand that it does not come without sacrifice. When discussing this point, this is a great time to have one of your more successful student-athletes talk about all the work they have put in, the sacrifices they have made, and how it was more than worth it once they achieved the success they were striving for.
- There will be a drop-off in participation.
For many junior high students, there is a misconception that the teammates they have had for the last two to three years will be the same teammates they will have four years from now. As athletic administrators and coaches we know that is simply not the case. Some will migrate to other sports, some will focus their attention to a lesser number of sports, and some will stop being an athlete altogether before reaching their senior year. Understanding and accepting that this will occur is necessary so that they will not be shocked by it later.
- Your effort is equally important to your talent level.
Coaches all want that kid who is willing to run through the proverbial wall—the grinder, the one who gives maximum effort at every opportunity. For those student-athletes who are not the best natural player on their team(s), embracing this notion should be viewed as a way to contribute and earn playing time. For those who are the top athletes on their team(s), embracing this notion may be the difference between going on to play at the next level after high school or not.
- Upperclassmen should hold you accountable.
We often hear coaches say that their best teams are the ones that managed themselves because they had strong upperclassmen leadership. Incoming freshman student-athletes should be prepared for the upperclassmen in each program to lead them, teach them, and hold them accountable for upholding the values of that program. It is important for them to remember the leadership styles and methods of accountability that the upperclassmen model for them, good or bad, because there are lessons to be learned from both. Soon enough they will be the upperclassmen, and we will expect them to then be the leaders of our programs.
- Self-Responsibility: You need to handle your own business.
As teens get older their amount of responsibility increases while the level of “hand-holding” from parents, teachers, and coaches decreases. In high school athletics, one’s responsibilities have to be handled on one’s own. No longer should high school student-athletes expect their parents to perform tasks that they are now more than qualified to do. These responsibilities range from something simple such as waking up in time for a Saturday practice to more complex such as personally speaking to a coach about reasons for decreased playing time. For parents, expecting their child to start handling their own business and being responsible when it comes to school and athletics is the best way to ensure that they are ready for the world once they have graduated.
- Your team and individual reputation is important.
Student-athletes and parents must understand that eyes are everywhere and that an individual or team’s reputation at school and in the community can easily be tarnished by any number of transgressions. Unfortunately in today’s age of instant communication via social media, the slightest of mistakes are typically broadcasted to the world within minutes of their occurrence. Student-athletes must develop the foresight to see the consequences of their actions before performing them, while always keeping the reputation of themselves, their teammates, their coaches, and their school in the back of their mind.
- Trust the process.
This saying made famous by Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers should echo in the mind of student-athletes and parents. Often, student-athletes are quitting a sport because they don’t immediately make varsity or because they aren’t a starter on day one. Sadly, this is typically at the encouragement or with the support of their parents. They need to understand that it is okay not to be on varsity immediately and that freshman, c-team, and junior varsity levels are in place to assist them in their growth and development toward the varsity level. Student-athletes and parents alike must also embrace the fact that it is okay not to be the star of the team, and that sometimes what is best for the team itself is that they fulfill a certain role that is vital, yet not as glamorous.
– Play multiple sports.
It is hard to believe that this conversation is still necessary but there are student-athletes and parents that still believe sport specialization is the answer despite all the scientific and medical advice that adamantly suggest otherwise. While providing this tip, involve your strength coach, athletic trainer, or team doctor to explain the injury risks and burn out rates that are well documented on this topic.
John Atkins, CAA, is the Athletic Director at Corydon Central High School (Indiana) and sits on the Board of Directors of the IIAAA as District 5 Director. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.