When it comes to sports, every player on every team has a common goal: to win. This goal holds much more emphasis at the tail-end of the season when postseason (and sometimes championship) berths are on the line. But it isn’t that simple. The journey from preseason to postseason is long and arduous, and while winning regular season games certainly boosts a team’s morale, sometimes it takes more for players to stay motivated during the season.
For this reason, coaches at every level — from high school teams all the way up to the professional ranks — find ways to reward their athletes for their hard-work throughout the season. This school is no exception.
Football: The buzz and prestige surrounding the Friday Night Lights are enough to motivate anyone, but that doesn’t stop the football team from sweetening the pot. Players who fit the bill tend to be looked upon as leaders, both in the locker room and on the gridiron. Fittingly, players who turn in high-level performances and/or have a good week of practice will often be rewarded with the honor of serving as a captain for the next game.
A major perk of being elected a captain is participating in the coin toss, but leading the team onto the field is the highlight for most players. Sophomore defensive back Larry Feldman said that the captaincy system is “supposed to push us to get that spot and be better,” and with upcoming games having major implications on the team’s postseason hopes, a push is exactly what they’ll need.
Girls soccer: The girls’ soccer team has been dominant this season, as their 7-2 record has them at the top of the 4A West division standings. Even with the all the success, playing as a top-level team week in and week out takes a physical and mental toll. Because of this, head coach Liz Seligman and rewards the team with rest the day after a hard-fought game. This rest can range from skipping sprints to occasionally canceling the entire practice to ensure full recovery and health by the time the next game rolls around.
“Without an individual-rewards system, it encourages team unity and emphasizes our team phrase: ‘together,’” Junior defender Megan Murphy said.
Girls’ volleyball: Rewards come a bit differently for girls’ volleyball. Instead of the coach treating the players to material items (see cross country) or less practice (see girls’ soccer), the players take matters into their own hands.
The girls reward each other with their words and quality time, and before you roll your eyes at the cheesiness of that sentence, it does an incredible job of strengthening team chemistry. The girls will often praise each other for their achievements while staying positive after their failures.“We get to know each other off the court, and this bond comes onto the court and we end up playing really well together,” senior setter/right side Fatima Bouzid said.
Cross country: In a sport requiring constant mental toughness and pristine fitness, even a single moment of weakness can wreak havoc on a runner’s performance. Head coach Kellie Redmond implemented a couple of rewards systems to keep her runners’ eyes on the prize. One of these rewards is the “Athlete of the Week.” Recipients of the award are honored for going the extra mile (pun very much intended) during the week of practice, but are also often earned after a breakout race. The Athlete of the Week gets recognized on the team website and also receives a special AOTW water bottle.
The other reward is the top 10 T-shirt given to any and every athlete who places within the team’s top 10 (based on time) at any point during the season. The shirt differs in design from every other article of spirit wear. The $0 price tag is a nice perk too. Freshman runner Jeffrey Riker likes the award and the shirt because they “give people a chance to work for something even if they’re not the best. [The shirts] also look good.”
There’s no single correct method when it comes to rewarding athletes, but even the simplest things are enough to provide some little extra motivation.
Front Page Editor