Join a sport so you don’t miss your ‘glory days’

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High school is a memorable time. Townsend Harris is known for its academics, but there is so much more to high school than hitting the books. In order to make high school as unforgettable as possible, it is important to participate in a variety of activities, including athletics.

Too often the case for joining a sport boils down to a question: does it add something to my list of extracurriculars that makes me look better to colleges?  In reality, the benefits of joining a team are far greater.

A high school sport is so much more than a sport; it is a passion. A high school athlete is an amateur, someone who does something because they love it. That is the most important part of high school sports: loving what you do and embracing everything that comes with it, whether it be the challenges, the successes, the failures, or the memories. Playing high school sports is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Representing not only oneself but one’s school is something that instills much pride and school spirit in an athlete. Wearing the Townsend Harris name on a uniform is both rewarding and motivating. It is the result of countless hours of training and preparation and is a true sign of dedication to our school,  our teammates, and a sport about which we care deeply. The bonds made while being on a team are everlasting, surviving well beyond the high school years. Close friendships are formed and mentors are found in upperclassmen and coaches. Everyone rallies around a common goal, trying to make themselves the best they can be as well as helping teammates do the same every step of the way. A team is a welcoming group which is willing to accept anyone who shares the athletic spirit.

Charts by Michelle Gan
Charts by Michelle Gan

When it comes to high school sports, winning is not everything, but hoisting a championship trophy or banner is a very special moment for any team. Building character is everything. Being willing to make sacrifices and take on responsibilities for the sake of the team as well as being resilient in the face of adversity is what makes a true high school athlete. The skills they develop as an athlete will extend past the arena of sports and  be useful throughout life.

In addition, sports focus on the mental as well as the physical, providing one with the opportunity to develop oneself more completely and open more doors in the future. Just as in class, improving requires effort, but more often than not, the experience out on the field is gratifying.

Many teachers and faculty at Townsend Harris spent their high school days as part of varsity teams.

Physical education teacher and Townsend Harris alumna Lauren Caiaccia played basketball, volleyball, and softball during her high school years. Ms. Caiaccia stated, “For me, being a member of three teams gave me something to look forward to at the end of the school day, opened up opportunities for me, and kept me a balanced individual.” She lists one of her most notable experiences from her high school athletic career as “being on the cover of the Queens section of Newsday.” Also a morning host of the local news paid the team a visit, during which Ms. Caiaccia and her team taught the news anchor how to shoot lay-ups. Now, she coaches the girls varsity basketball team and boys varsity volleyball team. Ms. Caiaccia mentions that all of her coaches left quite the impression on her, saying, “Any coach that I played for gave me good things to copy and shaped some of my ideas.”

English teacher and Townsend Harris alumna Katherine Yan fenced during her years at Townsend Harris. According to Ms. Yan, “Fencing gave me a sense of belonging, and a strong sense of connection. It taught me how to communicate with people, express myself, and provide help to others.” In her junior year, the fencing team, which was co-ed at the time, won the New York City championship. She recounts how that victory gave all of them such a huge sense of accomplishment. Since 2010, Ms. Yan has been at the helm of the THHS fencing program, assisted by her former coach Ms. Debra Michlewitz.

Principal Anthony Barbetta played baseball and football at Bayside High School. Mr. Barbetta listed his love for the game and his great teammates as what made high school baseball so special for him. He would go on to play baseball with those teammates for another fourteen years, and those teammates would turn into lifelong friends. When asked about some of the benefits of sports, Mr. Barbetta answered, “Sports build bonds for life. It teaches you hard work, leadership, and discipline.”

The memories that team sports leave, the lessons they teach, and the character they build are something a high school athlete carries with them for the rest of their life. High school is a formative time and sports reinforce many positive attributes and help to develop the person behind the athlete.

High school sports are generally not glamorous; only top athletes receive recognition, no one gets paid, and improving requires devotion to the team and self. However, fulfilling goals as an individual and part of a team make all the work worth it, and the glories of playing high school sports can never be taken away. So join a team, play sports, and enjoy something that makes high school a very unique time in our lives.