Freshmen take on the intense rigors of varsity sports


Phil Dolinger

After receiving a set from junior Mujay Mambu, freshman Gabi Axelrod earns a point for Chantilly during the game against Westfield.

Brooke Wagner, staff writer

It is unusual for freshman athletes to possess the abilities required to play on a varsity level team. Many freshman players need to accumulate skills and gain experiences over the years that allow them to succeed at a higher level. However, there are some that have the talent needed to be a member of a varsity team during their first year of high school.

Although being on varsity as a freshman can be intimidating, teammates try to help with the transition as much as possible.

“At first I was a little nervous and wasn’t sure how to react to it,” freshman and varsity field hockey player Adriana Risi said. “But all of the girls on the team were really nice, so they included me and made me feel better.”

Participating on a club or travel team can give some freshmen an advantage by preparing them for the challenges that come with being a part of a varsity team, and they are able to come into the fall season with experiences and skills others may lack.  

“I have been playing club volleyball for three years,” freshman and varsity volleyball player Karis Park said. “During club season, I get a lot of touches, and it definitely helps me keep up my skills and improve [outside] of the regular high school season, so that I am prepared for tryouts.”

Tryouts for any sport are competitive and stressful experiences, but perhaps even more so for freshmen coming into high school.  

“My initial goal was to make varsity,” Park said. “But I knew that there was going to be a lot of tough competition. I was glad that there were multiple days of tryouts; I felt more comfortable each day as tryouts continued.”

Since tryouts started in early August, freshmen had plenty of time to become accustomed to the strict practice and conditioning schedules that come with playing at the highest level. While being at school for a whole month during the summer can be challenging, this time can also be helpful because it encourages new students to get to know the school and fellow Chargers.  

“I feel like being on varsity tremendously helped me integrate into Chantilly,” freshman and varsity cross country runner Caroline Poole said. “It helped me meet so many new people.”

During the preseason, these freshmen can receive help and guidance from upperclassmen on their team.  

“All of the upperclassmen were really helpful when I asked them questions about the school,” freshman and varsity volleyball player Gabi Axelrod said. “They helped me figure out where all of my classes were and gave me information about all my teachers before school started.”

While freshmen and seniors are different in age, their skill levels may be closer than one would think. In the eyes of a coach, grade level is secondary to skills, drive and team compatibility.

“Coaching a freshman on the varsity team is no different than coaching a senior that is on varsity,” physical education teacher and varsity field hockey coach Kristina Plaugher said. “That freshman deserves to be there.”