BATEMAN: Playing up to varsity hurts more than it helps

web_Bateman_mugshotBY JAMIE BATEMAN
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Throughout high schools all over the country, student athletes dream about getting pulled up to varsity to play at the highest level with athletes older than them. While getting the opportunity to letter in a varsity sport before the typical junior year seems great and seems to promise potential, outside of that, there aren’t many practical positives to allowing athletes to play up.

Most players that decide to play up don’t think through all of the consequences that come along with playing. Unless you truly are that much better than your classmates, odds are you won’t play a consistent amount of playing time at the upper level, which could hurt your growth as a player. Over the course of a season, if the only action you are getting is in practice, you most likely aren’t growing as a player as much as you would if you played your grade level. If you played your grade level, you would get constant reps against competition that may not be as good as the competition at the next level, but it is still game time versus chilling on the end of the bench.

Another aspect of playing up is that you miss the experience with your teammates in your class that you will go through high school with and will still have to play with at some point in your career. Although winning a championship at the varsity level is much more impressive and fulfilling than winning one at the JV level, getting the chemistry and experience of playing with student athletes your age could prove vital to the success of the team down the road. There have been numerous occasions at the professional level of sports that teams haven’t reached expectations because of the fact that the players don’t have a good team chemistry. Knowing your teammate’s tendencies, like whether they are a passer or a shooter, or lefty or right handed, is something that all good teams need to know about one another. This is especially true in sports like basketball and football, where relying upon your teammates is vital to success.

Unless the athlete is getting significant playing time and help the team win and hopefully contend for a CVC banner, why not let them play on the team they are supposed to be and help that team win. If the athlete is good enough to be considered being pulled up, they should absolutely dominate at the grade appropriate age group. And again, I understand winning a JV championship isn’t exactly something to brag about, but why not build a reputation for your program starting from the ground up? If your lower teams like freshman and JV absolutely dominate in league, by the time they get to varsity they already have a winning attitude along with a sense of pride wearing a RHS jersey.

All of this being said, I’m all for having better varsity teams that would be fun to watch and contend for CVC titles here at RHS, and if the athlete truly has prodigy-like talent whose skills would benefit the next level up, then they should play at the next level. But if not, let the athlete play down and let him try to win as a junior and senior.