Underclassmen Strive for Success to Play Varsity Sports

Andi Mo, Staff Writer

Everyone likes a success story of a self-made man who rises from rags to riches.  In DVHS, the stories of underclassmen athletes who made Varsity this year are even more awe-inspiring and astonishing. Many people ask, “How can you be so good at tennis?’ or questions of a similar sort. These people are ruled by the common misconception that only the “good” and talented underclassmen make Varsity. But those underclassmen in Varsity aren’t just talented. They have years of dedicated practice, opportunities, and support from family and friends. These factors gave them the skills equivalent to or even surpassing their older teammates and more importantly, allowed them to make Varsity as freshmen or sophomores.

Unsurprisingly, all the Varsity underclassmen athletes interviewed said that their sports are their passions and extremely important to them. Perhaps it is that undying passion that drives them to such lengthy practice sessions before tryouts. For example, freshman Neil Braganza of Varsity Cross Country, who placed 20th in the 2013 NCS XC Championships, says, “I’ve been running almost every day for about 40-45 miles a week and 2 hours a day.” Likewise, sophomore Siddharth Raj of Varsity Men’s Soccer says that he had the advantage of 16-18 hours of weekly training in the weeks leading to tryouts. And to an even greater extent, freshman Gabriel Manansala of Varsity Men’s Basketball “practiced at least 5 hours a day, 7 days a week” before tryouts. These underclassmen train extensively with the full intent to get better–well over ten hours a week for most. These athletes know that their talent alone is not enough to float them to the top with only a fraction of other athletes’ practice times. Thus, Braganza says, “I did know a lot of runners in the Varsity team, but only hard work got me in that group”.

But what’s hard work and practice without opportunities to showcase improvement? The majority of underclassmen in Varsity had the opportunities of early exposure in elementary school to their sport, access to sport clubs, weekly practices, fitness and conditioning sessions, and tournaments–where the bulk of their greatest accomplishments lie. For example, freshman Joelle Ho of Varsity Women’s Soccer is most proud of her club team winning this summer’s Adidas De Anza Force Premier showcase. Similarly, freshman Margaret Qu of Varsity Women’s Volleyball says, “I helped my [previous] team get into 4th at Reno Far Westerns and got the title of Division Champion multiple times.” The previous two examples also demonstrate how vital teams and coaches are in any athlete’s success. For instance, Manansala says, “My previous coach was one of the top coaches in California for the AAU league. My team was ranked #1 in all of California.” These Varsity underclassmen, compared to the athletes who did not actively participate in practices and tournaments, had the enormous advantage in tryouts of more experience and skill from their own opportunities of improvement.

However, Qu credits her improvement in volleyball to not only opportunities, but also to support from her teammates and her current school coach. She says, “My teammates were very supportive of me. So I think that helped me improve my skills”. Many other Varsity underclassmen also said they receive a lot of support from coaches, teammates, friends, and family. Raj says, “My parents drive me to training and matches, pay the team fees and donations, as well as provide me with encouragement”. Furthermore, freshman Kolette Cho of Varsity Women’s Soccer says, “They have sacrificed their own time and plans, and I am really lucky to have them”. As the youngest Varsity players, these athletes need support, especially from their parents, to do their best. After all, parents are the ones who pay for their kids to play in clubs and drive them to games and practices. The underclassmen in Varsity are blessed with such supportive parents and coaches, which are vital to their success as athletes and were vital for them to make Varsity.

All in all, the underclassmen in Varsity interviewed said that there is more than just skill and talent to become a Varsity athlete. Many also commented that it was their work ethic and good sportsmanship that made them good enough for Varsity. Those two attitude traits and skill are the fruits of years of experience from practice and opportunities. Many underclassmen athletes are indeed born talented, but they might not necessarily make Varsity. There is no such thing as a self-made athlete who relies solely on his or her talent since opportunities and support are not provided for every underclassman athlete who wished to be a Varsity athlete. It’s the underclassmen who committed to practicing, seized opportunities, and were blessed with supportive parents and coaches who made it into Varsity.