Win or Die Trying?
Through sweat, tears, and long hours, students’ dedication to sports has elevated Packer athletics to a whole new realm. Students put in the effort in order to prove to their teammates, coaches, friends, and themselves what kind of athlete they are. Thus, a competitive culture in sports is born.
Packer sports are something a lot of people takes seriously – athlete or not. Every athlete wants to know the feeling of scoring the winning point or scoring a last minute shot, and their fellow classmates want to be there to see them do it. Competitiveness is something all athletes are familiar with. In order for the teams to be their best, there has to be some competition between the athletes for the team to grow and be ready to compete.
“In my years of working in an athletics program, having been in a school that wasn’t very competitive, those students weren’t very successful,” said Darrin Fallick, the Packer athletics director. “At Packer, where competition matters to the individuals, there’s definitely more success here as a result of that.”
However, coaches do not look for an athlete who is naturally competitive, they look for an athlete who is naturally a hard worker.
“I look for kids who are very coachable athletes want to be a part of the team, and athletes who work really hard to help the team reach its goals,” said Russell Tombline, varsity girls basketball coach. “I just think that having kids who are dedicated to a sport and willing to work hard will go a lot further with or without competitiveness.”
Unlike squash and golf, mainstream sports, including basketball and soccer, tend to be more competitive during tryouts due to the fact that students are more likely to play these sports from a younger age
“They are easier to play in terms of the facility. You can go down the street and play basketball and soccer, you can’t really just go walk to a squash court, jump on and play,” said Coach Fallick.
Even though they would prefer not to, due to the high demand to be on these teams, coaches have had to make cuts,. For years, the boys basketball and soccer teams have been the only teams to make cuts, but this year the three-year-old sport at Packer, ultimate frisbee, has decided that cuts will be necessary.
Alex Borinstein (‘18), in his freshman year, introduced the idea of having an Ultimate Frisbee team at Packer. That year, about thirtythree students joined the team, and the next year the number grew to fifty five.
“Initially, a lot of people joined frisbee just thinking it was not a competitive sport, but last year’s season we were able to prove those people wrong by becoming the league champions,” says Alex. “It wasn’t an easy task to come by; we had to work really hard. This year we have been placed in a higher division, and our goal is to win again, so we need the best 21 players who will be dedicated and will put their best effort to reach that goal.”
Since Packer is not a recruiting school, coaches will sometimes scout out student athletes in Middle School if they think the student will be able to succeed and improve on a higher level team. Some may wonder what this means for high school athletes who work very hard and have the potential to be on the team, but cannot because the position is already taken by a middle schooler. However, coaches believe that the middle school recruitment is not a question of replacing a high school student’s position because both the middle schooler and the high schooler have to try out for the team, so it just depends on who is more fit for the position.
“A girl who made the varsity level team didn’t get there without doing any work,” says Darrin. “By working with her fifth and sixth-grade team, we generated her interest in the sport, but she took it to the next level by playing it out of school leagues and going to summer camps. She wasn’t given the spot; she came in and earned it.”
While a competitive culture sounds inherently cut-throat and dangerous, coaches and athletes believe that competitiveness itself is what pushes the team to be better. Overall Packer coaches believe most that hard work is worth more than what it says on the scoreboard, as the saying goes,“ Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”