Varsity athletics seem to have a sort of conundrum about them.
The higher the level of competition, the greater the reward for success is.
But with this reward also comes stress and commitment, and the whole experience begins to feel like an obligation, not a pastime.
It seems as if the nature of this level of competition leads to a trade of fun for success.
This begs the question, what is truly important for high school sports? Is it winning, or is it the athletes having fun?
There is no single answer to this. Many students enjoy being on a successful team even if they don’t play, as proved by the Granite Bay High School football team who has roughly 80 players and only a little over 30 of them receive significant playing time each game.
Where is the middle ground? How do you combine fun for the team and still achieve success?
Over the summer, I played for Maidu’s Senior All-Star baseball team. We were the District 54 Champions and finished second place in the Sacramento area, narrowly missing a chance to advance to the Northern California tournament.
By all definitions we had a very successful season, and we also managed to have a lot of fun.
Almost everyone received a decent amount of playing time, whether or not his playing was going to help our chances of winning.
Our practices were casual, but productive. There was little stress, the desire to succeed was intrinsic, and there was no huge fear of the consequences of failure.
I have had a much different experience so far with the fall program of the GBHS varsity baseball team. The competition level is higher, the expectations are entirely different being a high school sport and a mutual pressure to succeed is felt very strongly by every player.
This pressure doesn’t come from the coaching; it is a product of the atmosphere of high school sports.
I have a unique perspective of being an athlete and a fan.
As an avid fan of the football team, I want to see them win. My expectations, and the expectations of so many others who share my feelings, feed into this cutthroat level of competition for playtime between teammates, resulting in only the best touching the field.
While this atmosphere translates well to an organization such as the National Football League, where every team is a business, these are only high school sports.
What should be the goal of high school athletics, to win or to have fun?
This is a question that cannot be answered by the coaches. If they field an unsuccessful team, they will lose the faith of the fans, even if the players had an enjoyable experience.
And if they play only the best and succeed, they will be criticized for not giving playing time to everyone.
This is the Catch-22 that high school athletics face.
The ambiguity of the situation is further complicated by the fact that some athletes would enjoy being a bench player on a very successful team as well.
The answer? Well it, depends on your perspective.
As a fan, I want to win, and I could care little how this is achieved.
But as an athlete, I know the pain of the many players who do not get a chance at a decent amount of playing time.
My opinion? Let the players decide. There are different circumstances for different teams.