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The Echo

The student news site of St. Louis Park High School

The Echo

The student news site of St. Louis Park High School

The Echo

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Expectations vs reality of the senior season

The last may not be the best
Expectations+vs+reality+of+the+senior+season

Many high school athletes have been participating in their respective sports for a large portion of their lives. Especially now that middle schoolers are allowed to be on high school teams, a student-athlete could be on the same team for six years. It is expected that each season, individuals improve at a linear rate. However, this can oftentimes not be the case. There are a lot of expectations placed on an athlete’s ‘senior season,’ as it is thought to be the accumulation of years of hard work and dedication. Even if this is true, that doesn’t necessarily mean a person’s final season will be their best. 

The best way I can express this phenomenon is by describing my experience. In my sophomore year, I was consistently racing varsity Nordic races. I was improving with every race, and one of my teammates and I wound up winning the skate sprint relay in the Conference championship race. My junior season was even better, and ended with my relay team getting second place in the Sections race and qualifying for and racing in the state meet. This season, however, I have not seen the same success. Although I am working harder than I ever had before and I am doing okay in my races, my placement on the team is not as good as last year. It’s good that our team is improving, but it’s hard when that improvement is at the expense of my last season. 

I did my first varsity race in eighth grade, and I was over the moon that I’d be racing with high schoolers. However, now being on the other side of this, it’s difficult to deal with the fact that people many years younger than me are just as fast or faster than me. This phenomenon becomes especially difficult for individual sports where there is still a team aspect because you want to do well individually but you also want the team to do well. It feels selfish to want to be better than my teammates, but at the same time, Nordic skiing is an individual sport. I’m sure a similar situation could happen in a team sport, where you want the team to win but you also want to score points or make saves to make yourself stand out. 

But how does one deal with a senior season that doesn’t meet their expectations? It’s really easy to get down on yourself and say things like “I should’ve worked harder.” Although this could be true, most likely, you did your best and gave the season your all. It’s also easy to compare yourself to other athletes or your teammates. In this situation, it’s important to remember that everyone’s experience is different, and try your best to be a supportive teammate. This can be difficult when it seems like you have put in more work than them, but they seem to be more successful than you. Dealing with this in a healthy, sportsman-like way is an important life lesson. Even if someone is putting in more work than you, there are a lot of opportunities that they miss out on by putting so much focus onto a sport. For example, I could’ve trained all summer with a Nordic club team. Instead, though, I worked at a summer camp, traveled, volunteered and did many other fun things that I wouldn’t have been able to do if I was training for three months straight. Even though at the moment a sport can feel like the most important thing in the world, once the season is over you may start to put into perspective how much high school sports actually mean in the grand scheme of things.

One idea that has really helped me with some of my disappointments this year is focusing on all of my achievements. I like to restate “I’m not going to the state meet this year” to “I went to the state meet last year! I’m proud of myself for that!” Although it’s good to continue striving for greatness, it can be fulfilling to take a second and reflect on how far you’ve come. Another thing that is making my senior season more enjoyable is that I plan on skiing in college. Even if you don’t get recruited and wind up on a club team, it’s a comforting notion that your ‘senior season’ is not your last. You don’t need to be on a NCAA Division I team to continue participating in a sport that you’re passionate about and want to improve in. I might be done skiing with this team, this coach and this conference, but it’s exciting to think of what I’ll be doing next season in a new environment. 

Everyone’s experience with high school sports is different. As an athlete progresses to their final years in their sport(s), they might be surprised if their senior season isn’t all that they’d hoped it would be. As one last piece of advice, I recommend focusing on the happiness that the sport brings you, the friends it has provided, and the memories that you will remember more than how you performed in one game or meet.

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About the Contributor
Modesty Manion, Multimedia Editor
Hi there! My name is Modesty, I’m a senior and it’s my third year on Echo. This year I'm Echo's Multimedia Editor, and I am so excited to grow Echo's digital impact! I'm on the varsity nordic ski team, as well as the cross country team, and I love coffee, Gilmore Girls, pop culture, hiking, camping and thrifting. 

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