As a long-time head coach committed to growing my program, I am always on the lookout for young talent; standout athletes that surpass the expectations of their age groups.
It’s not often that a Freshman athlete is considered for a spot on a varsity team, but it’s a big deal when it happens. As coaches, we must carefully weigh our options; is this young athlete good enough, fast enough, or strong enough to take the spot of another potential upperclassman? Will this make waves among the current varsity team members? Is this athlete ready for the challenges and higher level of training they’ll encounter on a varsity schedule?
While coaches and players weigh their options, many parents think the same things. Can my son or daughter hold their own on that level of play? Will they be accepted? Are they at a higher risk for injury? Should we wait? Is he or she ready for the challenge?
All these and more are valid questions for parents of a gifted athletes. As a head coach who has taken that chance on a handful of freshmen in my career, I can offer a few suggestions to parents wondering: is my freshman varsity material?
When it becomes apparent that your athlete has a real chance at being offered a Varsity position, it’s important to start having specific conversations with your athlete and their coach.
Talking to your athlete, ask the following questions:
- Is this an opportunity you feel ready to take on?
- What are the pros and cons of accepting this offer?
- Is there anything about playing on Varsity that worries you or makes you nervous?
- Let’s talk about balancing school, sports, and your social life; let’s make a plan.
- Is this a sport you see yourself possibly playing in college?
Once you and your athlete are on the same page about moving forward, it’s important to speak to the coach (along with your son/daughter) and be sure to ask these questions:
- What brought you to choose my son/daughter for your team?
- What qualities do you see in them?
- What do you see their role being on this team?
- What is your coaching philosophy?
After having these important conversations, you will have a better idea of what is expected of your athlete and feel better either way about the decision they will soon make.
Ultimately, it’s important not to forget that this is an amazingly positive opportunity for your son or daughter that could launch them into a lifelong career within their sport!
I am a Division II College Coach, 11-year Elite Club Coach, and an 8-year Varsity Coach with almost 200 wins. I was a Division I Scholarship Athlete and a Semi-Pro post-collegiate athlete. And as a Freshman, I too made my Varsity team. I was of course, nervous, wondering if I was ready, worried I wasn’t good enough, fast enough, or knew enough about the sport. But all those doubts and uncertainties went away with time and support from my coach and teammates. I quickly earned playing time and respect among my peers and it ended up leading to a career in this sport and others. I look back upon those 4 years on Varsity as one of the best and most challenging times in my young sports career. I would not have changed my decision for anything in the world.
On the occasions, I have made offers to Freshman athletes for a spot on my Varsity squad and have had those parents come to me and ask, “Is my Freshman Varsity Material?” My answer is always “Yes.” Yes, I will support them and lead them as youth athletes because I will be patient with them and their teammates. But also yes because as a coach, I know what I’m doing and I know talent when I see it and your athlete has what it takes, and that’s why the offer was made.
Ultimately, it comes down to the decision to be made by your son or daughter for what they want for their future as an athlete. And as you begin having conversations and weighing your options remember that your Freshman does not need to be as big as their Senior classmates or even as strong or as fast. As Varsity coaches, we often take chances on Freshmen who showcase potential to be all those things and more and that’s why we make those offers. This is a chance for your Freshman to grow and learn at a more rapid and challenging pace than they would otherwise and more often than not, can be the biggest blessing of their athletic career! Good Luck and Congratulations!