In the waning minutes of the varsity football team’s game against the Richard Montgomery Rockets on Sept 15, chances of a Patriot victory seemed slim. The Rockets, already up by five points, were deep in Patriot territory looking to put the game away with a touchdown. But when RM’s quarterback lobbed a pass to the end zone, Patriot defensive back Moses Amobi leapt up and came down with a game-saving interception. Though the Patriots ultimately lost, Amobi’s clutch catch was a highlight-reel play, even more impressive by the fact that Amobi is a freshman.
Amobi is just one of the impactful freshmen on our school’s varsity teams. Just look at the girls’ tennis team, which faced a daunting task in replacing three-time state champion Miranda Deng. Instead of taking a step back, the girls have continued their dominance thanks to two freshmen, Annie Dong and Ellie Esterowitz, who are already the top two singles players on the team. On the links, freshman Ethan Chelf has the second-best average on the golf team. Across the board, the class of 2021 is making an immediate impact.
With so many freshman breaking into the varsity ranks, the issues of inexperience and nerves, which are natural to younger athletes but can lead to subpar results, can affect the performance of a whole team. After all, a varsity team is uncharted territory for an incoming freshmen. Thus, the support of our younger teammates is a step that is crucial to our success and one we must take.
Oftentimes, this step is one easier said than done. Supporting someone who is competing for playing time or a varsity spot can result in heated tensions and bad blood, especially when difference in age is a factor. As a competitive person, I know that I would be steaming if a freshman moved into my spot on varsity or took my playing time. But that attitude is far from a team-first mentality and certainly will not put the team in a better position to win.
The issue boils down to priorities, and if winning is an athlete’s top priority, there’s only one solution. To put freshmen in the best position possible and in turn better the team’s position, upperclassmen need to spread their wisdom and experience and ensure a smooth transition for the younger athletes. Sharing knowledge will not prevent rookie mistakes, but it makes a positive impact and addresses a glaring need.
I know firsthand the impact that upperclassmen can make on a varsity-level freshman. Two years ago, I stood in the rare position of being a freshman on the boys’ varsity cross country team, one that eventually won the first boys’ county championship in school history. The seniors could have kept to themselves and no one would blame them, but they chose to make me feel welcome, to motivate me, and to give me tips on how to run the best races. Without a doubt, I would not have had the level of success I enjoyed as a freshman without their unwavering support.
Winning is important to the athletes here. Our leadership and treatment of freshmen on our teams should reflect that belief. Supporting younger teammates is one of the most beneficial ways a player can better his or her team and can lead to profound results. Of course, this does not mean relieving freshmen of their duty of filling the water coolers.