All athletes want to become a varsity player at some point in their high school athletic career, but many incoming high schoolers simply settle for making the freshman team. But my question is why not aim higher? Why not set that goal of attaining varsity status? Sure, making varsity may not be a legitimately realistic goal for you right now, but there’s no reason for you not to prepare as well as you can to give yourself the best chance of eventually making the big V. You never know, a year or two down the road you could develop into that stud athlete dominating everyone in the state, and even propel yourself onto the national radar. So what exactly does it take to actually make the varsity team? Read on, I’ll tell you.
Now, you might be asking yourself, “Why listen to this guy? How does he know what he is talking about?” Sure, I may not have been an All-American athlete or a high recruit for top-notch universities in my high school days, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have some solid insight to give you. As a matter of fact, having firsthand gone through the process of developing my talents well enough to make my varsity team in each of my four high school years, and having two years of captain experience, I am confident I can give you at least a few useful pointers. In my case, the sport was tennis. But no matter what sport is your passion, my advice can’t hurt.
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Key #1: Repetition. You’ve got to get yourself fully engaged in your sport. By this, I don’t mean you pick up the ball, glove, racquet, or whatever it may be once or twice a week. Instead I mean you must play as much as you possibly can. Giving yourself the repetitions will in itself improve your overall skillset. Think about it this way, when you’re taking a math class in school, the best strategy to succeed on the tests is to constantly be refreshing your mind, daily if possible. This keeps the information right on the front of your mind and you’ll easily be able to regurgitate it come test time. The same is true in sports. Making yourself familiar with the game and consistently repeating the action of playing the sport will help you excel.
Key #2: The Offseason. It’s one thing to play your sport frequently during the sport’s main season, but it’s another to play year-round. This is an absolute necessity if you are trying to be all you can be. You can almost think of the offseason as the actual regular season, because it is just as important, if not more important. I’ll use my tennis experience as an example here. Where I went to high school, near Minneapolis, the tennis season is ridiculously short. The season normally begins at the very end of March (or whenever it stops snowing) and stretches only until mid to late May. This means the season lasts roughly around two months. Doing the math, that leaves ten months of offseason. It’s almost impossible to not play for those ten months and still make the team, let alone thrive on it. You need to do your best at getting yourself involved in as many offseason camps, training sessions, or other activities as possible. I know, it’s extremely tough and often quite expensive if you play an outdoor sport and live in a cold-weather climate, but trust me, it’s worth every penny.
Key #3: More Offseason. Playing your sport and getting repetitions in during the offseason is vital to success, but offseason conditioning can truly propel you ahead of your peers. Getting involved in a cardio and weight training program at your school or your local fitness club can make all the difference. Finding an instructor who knows what they’re talking about and who will give you sound advice will help you significantly. Not only will this benefit you for obvious reasons such as building and strengthening your muscles while becoming faster and increasing your endurance, but for less apparent reasons as well. One hidden reason why offseason cardio activity and weight training can benefit you is that it helps to reduce injury potential in the future. If you’re forced to miss any period of time during the season because of a muscle-related injury, chances are it’s going to be something that could have been prevented had you been in better physical shape. And while you’re sitting out on the sidelines recovering, someone else is going to fill in, gain valuable experience, and who knows, maybe even surpass you on the team. Clearly this is something you are going to want to try to avoid at all costs.
Key #4: Nutrition. As an athlete, both during the season and in the offseason, you must give your body the proper nutrition. First of all, always eat breakfast. Eating breakfast will not only give you energy, but will boost your body’s metabolism which will in turn keep you leaner and more in shape. Another tip is to eat several smaller meals throughout the day rather than three large meals. This will also help you remain in a high-energy state throughout the day. Also, avoiding fatty foods when possible is a key to keeping your body in shape. Complex carbohydrates found in grains, fruits, and vegetables will help give your body the constant supply of energy you need as an athlete on a mission. Also, eating a moderate amount of food with protein is necessary for muscle development and stability. And last but not least, don’t forget water! Drinking eight to ten glasses of water every day will ensure you’re replacing fluids lost during exercise.
Key #5: Making a good impression. Going into tryouts, I cannot stress enough the importance of making a good impression on your coaches. You can do this by making sure you bring a positive attitude every day and by listening to everything your coaches have to say. Having a positive attitude can be anything from cheering on your peers to keeping your head up when you make a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, even the best of the best. The difference between some athletes and others is their ability to cope with, and even learn from a little bit of failure. If your coaches see that you cope well with mistakes and take something away from them, they’ll realize you’re coachable, which gives you a huge advantage. And when your coaches tell you to do something or attempt to make an adjustment to your game, listen to them! Not only will this avoid awkward and often relationship-damaging confrontation, but it will also actually help you improve your game. Coaches are coaches for a reason. They have had years of experience in the sport, and you must extract every bit of knowledge from them as possible.
Exceeding at a sport is not only based off of your skill, but as you can see many other factors contribute to your success. Now that you know what it takes to rise to the top of your high school sport, the next step is to get out there and prove to everyone what you can do. Go get em!