Some students in the Middle School are given the opportunity to play at a higher level in Upper School varsity sports teams. This allows high school coaches to push younger athletes to go further with their sports careers.
Despite the surprise of making the varsity girls tennis team, seventh-grader Alex Doering was aware of the effort she would have to put in to stand out and be a good athlete. “I have to play to the best of my ability,” she said.“I have to work hard.”
Eighth-grader Oliva Schaller plays varsity girls lacrosse and has been playing the sport for several years. Olivia explained how it is hard to be the youngest player on the team. “Everyone looks at me as just an eighth-grader, so I have to prove them wrong,” she said.
The varsity coaches look for many different aspects of middle school athletes to see if they are suitable to play at a varsity level. For example, Olivia believes that sports coaches look for how hard-working a middle school athlete is and whether they can match the skills of the older players.
Just like varsity players in the Upper School, for some middle school players, it is challenging to balance playing on the team with other extracurricular activities and commitments. Olivia goes to varsity practice after school and then goes home to get homework done and get ready for her outside of school sport. She said that as she played more with the team, she was able to adjust to the schedule of varsity lacrosse.
Another major part of being on a competitive sports team is how you connect with your coaches and what kind of bond you can make with each other. After playing tennis for 42 years, varsity tennis coach Ronald Garcia explained how coaching middle school athletes on a high school team affects his coaching style.
“One thing that is hard is that middle school athletes are at different points in their evolution as an athlete,” Coach Garcia said when commenting about the various levels of the players on the varsity tennis team. He also felt that another difficulty of having both middle school and high school athletes on the upper school teams is that the players have different academic schedules.
Nonetheless, it is a great advantage that KO has a Middle School and an Upper School so that sports teams can have players of a variety of ages but of the same skill level.