Questions from Middle-Schoolers: How are HS sports different from MS sports?

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Courtesy of the Athletics Dept.

Boys varsity lacrosse team

It’s no surprise that high school sports are a step up from middle school sports in intensity as well as team dynamics, so incoming freshmen will need to adjust to find success. 

“Commitment as a high schooler is much higher than in middle school,” said Julia Barber, a sophomore and soccer player. “Practices are more intense, longer, and more frequent.”

As high school athletes commit more time to their sports in order to improve, they’ll be held to higher standards than in middle school. 

“[In soccer], we do pre-season and you’re required to [run within] a certain mile time or [complete] different fitness tests. We didn’t have to do that for middle school,” said Julia Hanson, another tenth grade soccer player. “It’s not too unachievable, [though]. It’s not anything crazy.”

Before committing to a high school sport, student athletes must evaluate their schedules, as high school athletics can take up quite a bit of time.

“At the high school level, practices are mandatory and they’re 5 to 6 days a week,” explained Coach Michael Shilalie, who coaches baseball and has experience with both middle school and high school teams. “In middle school, it’s 3 to 4 days a week and it’s a little bit more relaxed.”

Additionally, high school sports are more competitive, as games and meets are played more frequently and at a higher level than in middle school.

“Middle school baseball might play 10 games a season. In high school, we play 20 games a season, plus States [a statewide competition], and a league tournament, too,” said Shilalie. 

With high school’s greater intensity comes more opportunities for athletes to challenge themselves, including the option of varsity teams. 

“I’d say if you’re working towards varsity, there is definitely some sort of standard,” shared Hanson. “For the most part, you’re expected to be showing up and giving it your best all the time.”

For younger students, joining a varsity team is an achievable goal, but coaches advise that each individual puts in the effort necessary.

“Reach out to the coach and let them know you’re interested when you’re a freshman or maybe even the summer before so you’re on the coach’s radar,” advised Shilalie. “And be ready to work at it, getting your work in on your own, whether it’s off-season or a day off and you want to improve your personal skills.”

Athletes also agree that the high school teams in particular are extremely close and bond well. This sort of mutual support might be new to incoming players.

“I would definitely say there’s a lot more camaraderie shared within the team,” Hanson said. “It’s a good way to get to know upperclassmen and build friendships.”

Some teams also participate in team bonding activities off the field to strengthen their relationships. 

“We’ve had plenty of team cookouts and dinners—pre-game dinners, post-game things, whereas in middle school, that doesn’t really happen nearly as often,” said Shilalie. 

In addition, team captains, which are mostly exclusive to high school, help to lead players and keep the team together. 

“There’s two or three seniors, usually, that lead more of the practices,” Hanson explained. “For middle school, there weren’t really any captains. You [just] had your coach and you listened to them.” 

Newer athletes can look to upperclassmen as a source of support and guidance. With enough effort, middle school students will adapt easily to high school sports and find it a rewarding experience.

“There’s little that can compare to being part of a high school team, representing your town, being with your friends, and having a common goal,” Shilalie shared. “Speaking as someone who is no longer in high school, looking back at it, it was a special time.”