Only a moment in time

Sonja Karp, Sports Editor

Over the past few years, I have noticed the sad trend that fewer students are participating in high school sports.


This seems to be a problem that grows more prevalent the older the student is. 


For example, this fall the middle school has a whopping 55 or so girls, sixth through eighth grade, out for volleyball. That number is astounding, and, quite frankly, has made managing the program a little tricky considering gym space, the number of coaches needed, putting an appropriate number of players on each team and even in finding enough contests against schools that may not have that many athletes in their programs.


But, it’s a good problem to have. It means that young girls are participating in the sport and will have the opportunity to hone their skills, make friends with players from other schools, and they will gain valuable life skills from their experiences.


Then we look at the numbers for high school volleyball. In the four grades, there are only 26 athletes out for the sport. Of those 26, only three are from the junior and senior classes. 


I know for certain that more than three girls from the senior and junior classes played volleyball when they were younger.


Of course, I understand that as kids get older they may lose the passion they once had for a particular sport, maybe because they just aren’t as talented as they’d like to be, or maybe it started to feel more like a job than something they loved to spend time doing.


However, what makes me very sad and so frustrated is when athletes quit playing a sport because they don’t like a coach, or they don’t like another player on the team, or they don’t get the amount of playing time they think they should because other players are better or just as good, but older.


It also bothers me that high school aged kids — 14 to 17 years of age — stop participating in a sport because they want to get a job.


For the most part, businesses in Newcastle will bend over backward to work around the schedules of high school students who participate in extracurricular activities. They understand the importance that being a part of a team is to a young person’s development, and want to accommodate them to the best of their ability.


I understand that young people may want to work in order to have more money available to them for day-to-day life, or to save up for college, or that they may be in a position where they need to work to help support their family for whatever reason.


While these reasons are valid, it makes me sad that kids give up the opportunity to play a sport they love too early to go to work.


They will spend the rest of their lives working, but they only get four years to play high school sports. Assuming that the average lifespan in the United States is around 77 years, that is a mere 19¼ % of your life that you get to spend playing a sport you love.


In addition, even if you go on to college and play intramural sports, or play on a city league, nothing compares to the experience of playing on a high school team. For those athletes who actually play on a collegiate team, that experience doesn’t compare to playing in high school.


The lifelong bonds you create with teammates that become more like family is priceless. The fun you have on bus trips, overnight trips, and just the fact that you are sharing in achieving a common goal make any pain or disappointment that may come along entirely worth it.


Whenever I learn of a student who decided not to go out for a sport for which I know they have a passion and a talent, it almost breaks my heart, because I know they are not considering the long-term ramifications of what they are giving up. 


I even had this conversation with my own kids when frustration caused them to feel like quitting. 


Four years is just a moment in time, but it’s time that you can never get back.


I urge young athletes not to throw away the opportunity to make precious memories and to play the sport they love while they have the chance.


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