The differences between middle school and high school sports

Jaden Cheloha, Staff Writer

It’s been a long time since I’ve been on any type of sports team. The last time I was part of one, I was in eighth grade and part of the swim team. Then, school was called off for two weeks, abruptly ending the season. As OPS kept extending the time school would be out for, my hopes of playing in the spring sport slowly faded away. 

Once middle school ended in May, I was left without any sports to play throughout the entire summer. By August, however, I was ready for high school, and could finally participate in sports again. So, I decided sign up for football. I went down before the school year started to get my pads and practice jersey, but unfortunately, the season got cancelled before I even attended a practice. 

It took an extra three quarters, but once spring sports rolled around, I was ready to jump back into the foldI had to decide if I wanted play soccer, or try out a new sport and join the track team. I’ve never participated in track before, but I ended up signing up for it over soccer. Now, it’s been a week since my first practice, and I’ve already noticed the two biggest differences between sports in middle school and sports in high school. 

Anyone can play 

For most of the students at Central, it seems like an afterthought to think about how anyone with a physical and an activity card can try out for a sport. It still feels a little weird to me because I haven’t forgotten about how my middle school handled sports. Only 7th and 8th graders could be on a sports team. My school went all the way down to 5th grade, and even though it makes sense for those younger kids to not compete, it effectively cuts the student body in half when it comes to participating sports. 

In high school, it truly doesn’t matter if you’re an inexperienced freshman or a multi-sport senior, everyone has a chance to make the team. I’ve already seen both of these examples on the track team, and the more time I spend playing sports at Central, the more likely I’ll notice each unique path athletes can take to get where they areIt’s just up to the player putting in as much effort as they can to succeed. 

Grade level doesn’t matter if you work hard enough 

For most of the sports I was in during middle school, there were two teams: JV and varsity. Usually, 7th graders would be on JV and 8th graders would be on varsity, but exceptions were made if an athlete deserved to be on a certain team more than the other. The only sport I was part of that didn’t follow this formula was swim. Instead, they simply had a team for 8th grade and one for 7th grade. We practiced together, but when it came to meets, we competed very separately. This felt very awkward, since I knew there were some 7th graders that deserved to swim with the 8th graders, and some 8th graders that weren’t quite ready for the higher level. 

This left a lasting impression when I arrived at Central. I still had in my headspace that teams were based around grade level. This is partly true, with some teams and meets specifically for freshman, but if you train hard enough and put in enough effort, you can make varsity right away. A freshman playing with seniors still seems weird to me, since the last team I played for in middle school was divided into groups based on grade level. 

There were a lot of things that I needed to adjust to in high school, but something I didn’t have in mind was sports. I’m discovering new things about what it means to be an athlete at Central every day, but for the time being, the two major differences I’ve already noticed between what I was used to and what I’m part of now will stick with me.