Varsity Letter: Swan Song

The following column was published in Wootton’s Common Sense newspaper as the final in the Varsity Letter series.

The most impactful moment of my high school athletic career came in the least likely of places and the least extraordinary of days. After a nondescript road run for track practice during my junior year, all of the distance runners gathered beyond one of the football field end zones for a light, relaxing stretching section. The only difference between this practice and any other day was the girls’ lacrosse game that was playing out on the other side of the field, a playoff bout between the Patriots and the Quince Orchard Cougars. With nowhere better to focus my attention as I stretched, I angled myself towards the game and found that it was tied with just minutes on the scoreboard. I had never tuned into a lacrosse game before, but given the deadlocked score and playoff implications, this game captured my attention.

Thankfully, the Patriots squeaked by the Cougars by a single goal, and the game’s conclusion coincided with the end of track practice. As I walked out of the stadium gates, one of the Quince Orchard players and her parent headed toward the car. The girl wasn’t crying or pouting, but I wondered how she felt after the slim defeat. Then, the beauty of the moment became clear to me. That player has no reason to be dejected. They gave it their all and someone had to lose.

But the actual realization came later, when I looked at my own athletic career through the lens of this concept. In my past races, I had set high standards and felt that these races were complete failures if the outcome didn’t match my expectation, regardless of my effort. Sure, thinking critically and dissecting past performances could help me to learn from mistakes and create a sense of accountability, but in the rush to pick apart what I had done wrong, I had lost perspective of the beauty of the moment, to stop and smell the roses so to speak.

Exploring the complexities and experience of high school athletics has been the essence of the Varsity Letter column over the past two years. Researching these stories has exposed me to a wide range of emotions, from the pride of Elijah Trent after his commitment to play football at Villanova, to the frustration of the boys’ lacrosse team in the wake of a turbulent season, to the nervous anticipation of boys’ soccer before a gritty playoff battle against the Northwest Jaguars. I’ve seen how passions of athletes like Noelly Miller have inspired the student body, and how coaches Kraig Bauer and Harold Warren have elevated their athletes on and off their fields of play. I’ve peered into oft-overlooked nuances of sports, such as the impact of communication and the integration of underclassmen into varsity teams, and tackled hot button topics like the athletic facilities and P.E. classes. Through it all, I have developed a greater appreciation for the dedication of our school’s athletes and coaches in their respective sports, and especially for the invaluable opportunities that sports have afforded this school’s students.

Sports crown winners and losers, and the mission to be on the victorious side is a motivation that can drive athletes to accomplish great things and push themselves harder than they ever thought that they could. But sports is incomplete unless you stop every once in a while and smell the roses. Well, to be more realistic, the perspiration.

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