Freshman Andy Dolen was sitting on the soccer field after the third day of soccer tryouts, sweating. But the 90 degree weather wasn’t the only reason why he was sweating; the mens varsity soccer coach was reading off the players who had made varsity.
“I was the last one called, so I was pretty nervous throughout the whole time he was reading the names,” Dolen said.
Almost immediately, though, he said he was welcomed by the upperclassmen when the captains invited him to go to lunch with them after he was named a varsity player. And throughout the season, the veteran players supported Dolen by helping him out when he was struggling at practice and giving him rides home.
“It was a good experience,” Dolen said. “People on varsity were really nice and welcoming, and it was good to have interactions with upperclassmen.”
While some might argue that experiences are lost when a student-athlete skips over freshman and junior varsity teams, Dolen found the season to be a positive one.
“The only thing different between JV and varsity is maybe the level of maturity. It seems like they act more organized and better disciplined on varsity,” Dolen said. “But team bonding is the same no matter what team you’re on.”
Team bonding examples included going to pre-game dinners at a player’s house and camping out in one of the captain’s yards.
From a coach’s standpoint, having a freshman on varsity can affect the team’s dynamic in a number of ways, both positive and negative.
“Negatively, their inexperience may open opportunities for opponents to take advantage of,” men and women’s varsity soccer coach Scott Forrester said. “However, if a player makes the varsity team in our program, he must be a very good player.”
There are also advantages to having a novice on the field, according to Forrester. He said they sometimes play better because they don’t realize the high stakes.
“The pressure isn’t the same as someone who knows the significance of high pressure games,” Forrester said.
According to Forrester, the experience of playing for one’s high school team is different from that of a club team.
He said the experience is sometimes better because “you go back to your school the next day and the topic is how the game went last night.”
Dolen also said having played with the upperclassmen on varsity will aid him with potential leadership positions in the future.
He said, “Now I’ll know how to treat the underclassmen in future years. I’ll remember how I felt when the upperclassmen were nice to me, and I’ll know how it feels to be an underclassmen and how they’ll want to be treated.”
Senior Savannah Krull knows from experience that Dolen’s hypothesis is true.
Krull has played on the varsity womens softball team since her freshman year, and she will be a captain this spring.
“From watching the senior captains when I was a freshman, I know how I want the team to run,” Krull said. “I know how to help the underclassmen on varsity and how to give them good advice that senior mentors gave me when I was a freshman.”
Krull found other benefits to playing varsity all four years, including having the same coach and being able to go to districts every year.
Above all, Krull found she was able to learn about the social aspects of playing on a team from her upperclassmen teammates four years ago.
“I already had the softball skills coming in, but I learned skills about cooperation and trusting my teammates,” she said. “These are things I wouldn’t have necessarily learned if I had played with other people my age.”