Opinion: Club sports win State Championships
January 31, 2017
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Each year, the best boys’ and girls’ teams from around the state compete against each other in the MIAA State Tournament. Each year, the most elite athletes who give everything to their sport win the MIAA State Tournament. Coaches spend hours training their players, watching films, and going over statistics to see how they can get the best out of their team when the tournament rolls around. So when the final buzzer sounds, when the ref blows the last whistle or when a champion crosses the finish line, what decides who that champion is? Would you believe me if I told you that championships are won before a season even starts? What if I told you that sometimes championships are won before a player even enters high school?
30 years ago, a high school athlete could excel simply by means of athleticism and raw talent. Although there are still rare cases of this happening, an entire team can’t be built from players that rely purely on athletic ability. High school sports in America have changed. We have reached the age of specialization. The age where if you’re not playing a specific sport three seasons of the year, you’re falling behind.
Some of the best sports teams at WHS thrive on specialization. For example, the boys’ varsity soccer team has won two state championships and two DCL championships in the past three years. On the 2016 roster, 21 out of 26 players played club soccer at some point in their lives. From my experience being on the team and from playing against other high school teams, I know that the amount of club players we had on our roster made us a much more intelligent and skilled team. Another successful program, boys’ tennis, won a state championship title in 2014 and is looking to make another deep run this year. All three competitors who play in the singles’ slots play tennis out of season. Recently the wrestling team has had much success, undergoing an undefeated State Championship run last year. The team is led by captains Brendan Kiernan, Jakob Warner and Cam Anzivino. Warner and Kiernan both wrestle out of season. Warner placed 4th in All-State’s last year, and Kiernan placed 3rd in Division III State’s last year. These wrestlers are able to stay on top because of their continued practice at their sport out of season.
Although many people advocate for playing different sports throughout the year, I believe playing a club or AAU sport is important if you are truly committed to becoming the best you can be at that sport. Training in the offseason is important to make sure that repeated stress on joints in muscles does not result in injury. Many also believe that playing multiple sports is a part of the “high school experience.” Personally, I would rather only play one sport and win a state championship than play a different sport three seasons and be average at them all.
The competitors that win state championships don’t show up to high school ready to try something new. They show up as elite, intelligent athletes who have been training since before they were ten — designed to win. Three-sport athletes deserve credit, but in today’s youth sports, there’s always someone training harder than you, and there’s always someone hungrier to win. If you’re not training for the majority of the year to become the best at one sport, someone else is, and chances are you’re going to lose to them.