High school sports are a different ball game than any other level of sports.
The amount of diversity in playing level at this juncture in life is totally unique. In youth sports, everyone is just starting to learn the ins and outs of what needs to be done to create a cohesive team. By the time you get to college, every player has been handpicked to create a winning schedule, these are the all-star teams’ all-star teams!
High school is a proving ground that gets you from a wide-eyed amateur to a proven leader. The most important thing is to look at this progression in phases, not as one huge transformation. Stay in the lane during these phases and you’ll go from a rough stone to a polished diamond by the time you graduate.
Congratulations, you’ve made it out of youth athletics.
Now it’s time for the fun to begin. People at this level are better, faster, and stronger than your teammates from youth league. There are people already thinking seriously about college sports, and there are people that were brought in to your school under special circumstances to play sports and win games. This is your time to really buckle down and get serious. Don’t miss out on any out of season workouts, tournaments, or “optional practices”.
Learn from the older players and coaches and don’t let your ego get in the way. Ask questions. This is the time when no one can get mad at you if you need more information. You’re new to the system, so be engaged and be teachable. Freshman coaches will have conversations with JV and Varsity, so be in the mix as a highly coachable player.
Your initial development is now complete. You’ve learned all of the basics and successfully been a practice dummy for the older players on the team. There’s a reason that the term “Sophomore Slump” exists. You just paid your dues for a year. You deserve to be on the starting lineup, right?
Wrong. You’ve officially made it to the real proving grounds. You’re in front of the Varsity coaches at tryouts and they’re looking to field a team that can get behind their single message. They don’t want to deal with players thinking they’re bigger than they are. You may be good enough to lock up a spot on the varsity roster, that’s great!
Now it’s time to get in line for drills. Keep a special eye on how the captains and seniors act. Model yourself after their best behaviors. Work as hard as you can at practice to get some precious minutes in the game. You’ll want as many minutes in the game as possible. Those minutes = time on tape. Time on tape = highlight reels for coaches. Your sophomore year should be the starting place on your roadmap to the next level. Start looking at film of yourself and analyzing how you can make that film even better.
Things are starting to get serious. You’re moving up on the depth chart and starting to put meaningful film together to send to college coaches. It’s easy to start thinking with an “I” rather than “We” mentality.
Don’t let yourself fall into that habit. No matter how successful you are, you’ll be stifled if your team around you isn’t getting better because of your athletic skill. College coaches want to see a player that builds up their team around them, not one that is only concerned about their well being. Despite needing to be a team-first, it’s important that you do as much as you can for yourself on your time away from the team. Meet up with your coach and find out the contacts they have in the industry, talk to your parents to get their advice on picking a college and find a college athlete who can give you advice. The best way to find out what your college career could be like is to work with someone who’s doing it right now.
You just made it to the top. It doesn’t matter if you’ve made a commitment or are still trying to find the right spot at the next level, now is the time when you give it everything you have in the tank.
This year equates to the legacy you’ll leave on your high school.
Your one goal should be focusing on lifting your team to champion status, not on padding your highlight tape. If there’s one thing we’ve learned in our experience, if you can get the team right, there will be enough film to go around for everyone. You’re the leader out there, so you and your graduating class are the ones to set the tone for the rest of the program. Get out there and lead by example. Make memories with your teammates that will last you a lifetime, because this may or may not be the last season you suit up in a true uniform, no matter your sport.